A top Vatican official has defended the Holy See’s decision to deny US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo an audience with Pope Francis during his visit.
The Holy See said the Pontiff does not receive politicians during an election period.
The move is largely seen as a diplomatic row following comments by Mike Pompeo about China and the Catholic Church.
The Vatican accused Pompeo of trying to use that issue to attract voters in November’s US presidential election.
Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states said the US unilaterally organised the event to exploit the pope in the run-up to the elections which was why the pope will not meet American secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
In an article earlier this month, Mr Pompeo said the Catholic Church was risking its “moral authority” by renewing an agreement with China regarding the appointment of bishops.
Human rights groups say many Catholics in China are persecuted and driven underground for pledging allegiance to the Pope instead of an official Chinese Catholic association.
Despite this, in 2018 the Vatican made a deal with China to have some say over the appointment of Chinese bishops.
At the time Pope Francis said he hoped the deal “will allow the wounds of the past to be overcome” and bring about full Catholic unity in China.
The agreement is expected to be renewed next month in the face of opposition from some Catholics, including in the US.