Pope discusses climate change and China with Blinken

Pope and Blinken

Pope Francis and United States Secretary of State Antony J Blinken met at the Vatican on Monday. They discussed religious freedom in China, the climate crisis, immigration and refugees.

“The meeting was extremely warm and very wide ranging,” Blinken told reporters after the 40 minute meeting.

“Speaking for myself and for the United States, I was very gratified by the meeting.

I was gratified by the strong leadership of his Holiness on the pandemic, on climate change, on the challenge that we have to address when it comes to irregular migration and refugees.”

The audience with Blinken took place shortly after US bishops voted in favour of writing a document that might ban pro-choice politicians from receiving Communion. This is largely aimed at Biden, the first Catholic US president to be elected in more than 60 years.

Asked by reporters about tensions between the White House and the US episcopacy, Blinken avoided a direct answer.

“One of the luxuries of my job is that I don’t do domestic politics,” he said.

Francis himself hasn’t weighed in publicly on the latest spat in the long-running wrangling over the Communion issue within the US Conference of Bishops.

A statement by Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni stressed the “cordial atmosphere” of the meeting. He reported that Francis took the opportunity to recall his apostolic visit to the United States in 2015.

The pope also “expressed his affection and attention to the people of the United States of America,” Bruni said.

The pope and Blinken talked about human rights and religious freedom in China. These topics were also discussed in Blinken’s separate discussions with the Holy See’s No. 2, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, and with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, its foreign minister.

The Vatican and the People’s Republic of China extended a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops in October 2020. This sparked controversy due to fears that it might muzzle Pope Francis’ ability to enforce his moral authority on Beijing.

Blinken and Francis discussed the possibility of working together “to address global challenges and the needs of the world’s least fortunate and most vulnerable, including refugees and migrants,” according to a statement by Ned Price, spokesperson for the US Department of State.

The two also addressed the need to “tackle the climate crisis”. Francis and President Biden are preparing for the COP26 summit on the environment that will take place in Glasgow in November.


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