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Pope Francis REFUSES to meet US Secretary Mike Pompeo amid Vatican – China row

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The top US diplomat has recently been vocal in his criticism of the Vatican’s relationship with China. Both are due to decide on whether or not to renew a deal which allows the Vatican to approve which bishops are appointed by the China’s state churches.

However, Mr Pompeo has argued the Vatican should not renew any such deal with China, highlighting religious persecution carried out by Xi Jinping’s government.

The Secretary of State wrote in an article for First Things magazine this month: “The human rights situation in China has deteriorated severely under the autocratic rule of Xi Jinping, especially for religious believers.”

He added there have been “credible reports” of “forced sterilizations and abortions of Muslims in Xinjiang” as well as “abuse of Catholic priests and laypeople”.

Mr Pompeo was due to meet with Pope Francis to discuss any renewal of the Vatican’s agreement with China this month.

The Pope has now refused to meet with the diplomat – though his office stated the reason was due to concerns surrounding impartiality about the upcoming US election, Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported.

There are conflicting reports on the current status of the renewal. The Telegraph reported yesterday the accord is expected to be renewed, while Independent Catholic News cites a Reuters report claiming it has already been extended.

In any case, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said regarding the agreement there is “good communication” between China and the Vatican.

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He also claimed “Catholicism in China has witnessed sound development”.

Mr Pompeo is still due to meet with Paul Gallagher, British archbishop and the Vatican’s US relations official.

The Telegraph reports there are two main branches of the Catholic Church within the People’s Republic of China – one recognised by the state, the other unofficial and instead loyal to the Vatican.

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The row over the relationship between the Vatican and China comes amid reports of religious persecution of the Muslim community in China.

In a tweet earlier this month, Mike Pompeo said: “No regime suppresses faith on a larger scale than the Chinese Communist Party.

“Over 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims have been forced into internment camps, subject to surveillance, torture, forced abortions, and sterilizations – all part of the CCP’s decades-long war on faith.”

Research from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute recently found China’s network of detention facilities for Muslim minorities in Xinjiang was expanding.

In December last year, Shohrat Zakir, the governor of China’s Xinjiang region, claimed people in the facilities have “freedom to come and go”.

He added, according to Australian broadcaster ABC news: “no force can stop Xinjiang’s progress toward stability and development.”

At high-level UN meetings last week, French president Emmanuel Macron urged nations to conduct an international visit to Xinjiang to “take into account the concerns that we collectively have on the situation of the Muslim Uighur minority”.

He added: “Fundamental rights are not a Western idea that one could oppose as an interference.”

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