Obama Admin Moves Vatican Embassy, Citing Security Concerns
The Obama administration has decided to shut down the free-standing American embassy to the Holy See. The offices for the Ambassador to the Vatican will be moved onto the grounds of the larger American embassy to Italy, in a separate building.
The move is being justified as a result of the security reviews that followed the attacks on our embassy in Benghazi last year but five former American envoys are strenuously objecting, reports John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter :
Justified primarily on the grounds of enhanced security, the move is described by former U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson, who's also a former Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the Bush administration and a former chair of the Republican National Committee, as a "massive downgrade" in U.S./Vatican ties.
"It's turning this embassy into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy," Nicholson said.
"The Holy See is a pivot point for international affairs and a major listening post for the United States," he said, "and to shoehorn [the U.S. delegation] into an office annex inside another embassy is an insult to American Catholics and to the Vatican."
Nicholson, who spoke in an interview Wednesday with NCR, joins former Bush envoys Francis Rooney and Mary Ann Glendon as well as Raymond Flynn, the first Clinton ambassador, and Thomas Melady, who served the first President Bush, in objecting.
Nicholson called the security argument a "smokescreen."
"That's like saying people get killed on highways because they drive cars on them," he said. "We're not a pauper nation ... if we want to secure an embassy, we certainly can." He said protection at the current location is "state of the art."
Flynn described the move as part of broader secular hostility to religious groups, the Catholic church in particular.
"It's not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists, but it's also those who restrict our religious freedoms and want to close down our embassy to the Holy See," Flynn told NCR.
Flynn said he can't see any "diplomatic or political benefit to the United States" from the relocation and called it "shortsighted."
considers the move to be "an unmistakable slap in the face."
Moving our Ambassador to the Vatican inside of our Italian Embassy sends a clear message: the diplomatic post doesn’t matter much to the United States.
Former Vatican Ambassador James Nicholson told Catholic Vote:
"It's another manifestation of the antipathy of this administration both to Catholics and to the Vatican – 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."
"The State Department has for a long time wanted to do this. It came up when I was an ambassador. I explained the folly of this and it went away. But now they seem determined to do this. The perception is [with this action] that the United States is showing a lack of appreciation for the relevance of its diplomatic partner in the Vatican."
It looks to some as though the Obama administration is trying to diminish and discredit the Vatican’s role in the world because it's pro-life, pro-family, and pro-religious freedom values is at odds with the Regime's pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage stance.
But the current U.S. Ambassador Ken Hackett said, "I see no diminishing in the importance of the relationship at all."