WASHINGTON D.C. – TheÂ Obama administration, in whatâ€™s been called an egregious slap in the face to the Vatican, has moved to shut down theÂ U.S. EmbassyÂ to the Holy See â€” a free-standing facility â€” and relocate offices onto the grounds of the larger American Embassy inÂ Italy.
The new offices will be in a separate building on the property, Breitbart reported.
And while U.S. officials are touting the relocation as a security measure thatâ€™s a cautionary reaction to last yearâ€™s attacks onÂ America’s facilityÂ in Benghazi, several former American envoys are raising the red flag.
Itâ€™s a â€œmassive downgrade of U.S.-Vatican ties,â€ said former U.S. AmbassadorÂ James NicholsonÂ in the National Catholic Reporter. â€œItâ€™s turning this embassy into a stepchild of theÂ embassyÂ toÂ Italy. The Holy See is a pivot point for international affairs and a major listening post for the United States, and â€¦ [itâ€™s] an insult to American Catholics and to the Vatican.â€
Mr. NicholsonÂ â€” whose views were echoed by former envoysÂ Francis Rooney,Â Mary Ann Glendon,Â Raymond FlynnÂ andÂ Thomas MeladyÂ â€” also called the justification for closing the existing facility a â€œsmokescreen,â€ Breitbart reported.
â€œThatâ€™s like saying people get killed on highways because they drive cars on them,â€ he said in the report. â€œWeâ€™re not a pauper nation â€¦ if we want to secure an embassy, we certainly can.â€
Moreover, the existing facility has â€œstate of the artâ€ security, he said.
â€œItâ€™s not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists, but itâ€™s also those who restrict our religious freedoms and want to close down our embassy to the Holy See,â€ he said in the National Catholic Reporter. â€œ[Thereâ€™s no] diplomatic or political benefit to the United Statesâ€ from the relocation at all, he added.
Catholic Vote, a publication for the Church community, called the move â€œan unmistakable slap in the faceâ€ that clearly communicates that the United States cares little for the diplomatic facility.
AndÂ Mr. NicholsonÂ went on, as Breitbart reported: â€œItâ€™s another manifestation of the antipathy of this administration both to Catholics and to the Vatican â€” and to Christians in the Middle East. This is a key post for intermediation in so many sovereignties but particularly in the Middle East. This is anything but a good time to diminish the stature of this post. To diminish the stature of this post is to diminish its influence.â€