The Obama administration plans to shut down the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican and relocate offices onto the grounds of the much larger American Embassy in Italy.
In the wake of the attack in Benghazi, Libya, the move is justified primarily on the grounds of enhanced security, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter wrote. Cost savings is said to be a factor as well, with the State Department estimating $1.4 million a year will be saved by relocating.
The Vatican traditionally has insisted that countries maintain embassies in distinct locations as a way of underscoring its autonomy, NCR reported.
It’s a “massive downgrade of U.S.-Vatican ties,” former U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson told NCR. “It’s turning this embassy into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy. The Holy See is a pivot point for international affairs and a major listening post for the United States, and … [it’s] an insult to American Catholics and to the Vatican.”
Nicholson added that the existing facility has “state of the art” security.
Raymond Flynn, Clinton’s first ambassador to the Holy See, said he can’t see any “diplomatic or political benefit to the United States” from the relocation and called it “shortsighted.”
Ken Hackett, former head of Catholic Relief Services, is the newly appointed ambassador and he disagreed with Nicholson’s assessment, according to NCR.
“I see no diminishing in the importance of the relationship at all,” Hackett said.
Hackett, who received over $300,000 in compensation in both 2010 and 2011 as head of Catholic Relief Services, donated to the Obama campaign in 2012. Just four days into his current post, he “took a swipe at pro-life Americans who criticized Catholic Relief Services for funding groups promoting abortion and contraception,” Life Site News reported.
With the relationship between President Obama and Roman Catholic bishops being tested by the ongoing battle over mandatory birth control coverage by religious employers, shutting down the embassy is likely to be viewed as a hostile move by many Catholics.
Obama showed just how petty and small minded he is capable of being during the federal government shutdown in October, as his administration intentionally closed many open air memorials, to include the World War Two memorial in Washington, D.C.
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