Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has hit out at Pope Francis following the news that diplomats from the Holy See are meeting later this month with members of the Chinese Communist Party to renew a two-year-old agreement between China and the Vatican.
Though the Middle Kingdom nominally adheres to the principle of religious freedom, it is officially an atheist state and has routinely been accused of cracking down on faith-based organizations.
"Two years ago, the Holy See reached an agreement with the Chinese Communist Party, hoping to help China's Catholics. Yet the CCP's abuse of the faithful has only gotten worse. The Vatican endangers its moral authority, should it renew the deal," Pompeo wrote in a tweet.
In a longer statement published on First Things, Pompeo also criticized the Holy See's decision to "legitimize" Chinese priests and bishops who were simultaneously involved with the CCP, claiming that they had "unclear" loyalties.
Pompeo cited the plight of Father Paul Zhang Guangjun, who was tortured and has since disappeared after refusing to join the CCP-run Patriotic Catholic Association. Similarly, Bishop James Su Zhimin was arrested in 1997 and last seen in 2003.
The secretary of state also explained the link between religious freedom and protesters in Hong Kong, naming Martin Lee and Jimmy Lai in particular.
Pompeo noted that it is not just Catholics who have suffered under China's restrictions on religious freedom. He added that credible reports detailed that the minority Uighur Muslim population in the Xinjiang province has been subjected to forced sterilizations, forced abortions, labor camps, and reeducation programs.
As was similarly reported by The Inquisitr, several sources claimed that the Asian nation had started a new program that offered rewards to those who reported home churches in their communities. Bounties on the underground churches have reportedly tallied as high as $14,000.
Pompeo continued his missive with the hope that the Pope would reconsider making an alliance with China, bringing up Catholicism's power in helping end communism in Eastern Europe and fascism in South America in the 20th century.
Pompeo ended his statement by citing both the leader's own words as well as the Gospel's.
"Pope Francis said in 2013 that 'Christians must respond to evil with good, taking the Cross upon themselves as Jesus did.' History teaches us that totalitarian regimes can only survive in darkness and silence, their crimes and brutality unnoticed and unremarked," he wrote.
"I pray that... the Holy See will heed Jesus's words in the Gospel of John, 'The truth will set you free,'" he concluded.