Risking yet another wedge between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church, the White House is moving to relocate its embassy to the Vatican into a separate government compound for the U.S. Embassy to Italy.
The current freestanding U.S. Embassy to the Holy See facility at the Vatican would be closed, The Washington Times reported.
Pope Francis arrives on his pope-moblie for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. (AP)
"It's not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists, but it's also those who restrict our religious freedoms and want to close down our embassy to the Holy See," said Raymond Flynn, a former U.S. envoy to the Vatican, in the National Catholic Reporter. "[There's no] diplomatic or political benefit to the United States."
Several Catholic dioceses in the United States are suing the Obama administration over the Obamacare mandate requiring that insurance provide free coverage for contraception and sterilization services and drugs they consider abortion-inducing.
The publication Catholic Vote said the move is “an unmistakable slap in the face” to Catholics, and shows the U.S. doesn’t care about diplomatic relations with the Vatican.
Administration officials have said the relocation is a security measure that is a cautionary reaction to the 2012 attacks on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, where four Americans were murdered in a terrorist attack, as well as cost-saving.
No embassy personnel will be downsized, the Religion News Service reported.
But former U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson told the National Catholic Reporter the relocation was a “massive downgrade of U.S.-Vatican ties.”
“It's turning this embassy into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy,” Nicholson said. “The Holy See is a pivot point for international affairs and a major listening post for the United States, and ... [it's] an insult to American Catholics and to the Vatican.”
(H/T: The Washington Times)