U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Vatican Radio Monday that President Trump has made religious freedom a “true priority” for his administration, on the eve of the State Department’s first-ever international summit on religious freedom.
Mr. Pompeo said the “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom,” which runs July 24-26 in Washington D.C., will gather over 80 delegations, including more than 40 foreign ministers.
“It’s a truly remarkable thing that the State Department under President Trump has made religious freedom a true priority for this administration and so we’re bringing together this delegation,” Pompeo told Vatican Radio in an exclusive interview.
The mission of the ministerial, he said, “is to spread the word of the importance of religious freedom for every individual around the world.”
“We want to press for that,” he said. “There are countries that share America’s understanding of that and there are those who don’t and we want to move each of them in the right direction, toward increasing religious freedom.”
Pompeo said that the U.S. position is that “people of all faiths should have the right to worship as they please or if they choose not to, they should be permitted to do that as well.”
Pope Francis and the Catholic Church can play a “central role” in this endeavor, Pompeo said.
“It is incredibly important that not only governments like the State Department of the United States but religious leaders too understand that they need to press for religious freedom for their particular faith and their beliefs, but that they should also play a role in insuring that there is religious freedom for those that share other faiths,” he said.
“So we think the Catholic Church can play an important role in the mission that we are attempting to achieve through gathering these folks in Washington in the days ahead,” he added.
Reflecting on the relationship between religious freedom and other values, such as human rights and economic growth, Pompeo said he see a deep correlation.
“Religious freedom has enormous benefits for countries when individuals are permitted to act and behave freely with respect to their faith they have the capacity for greatness,” he said. “So we see a deep connection between religious freedom as a fundamental human right and the economic benefits that flow to countries that have this religious freedom.”
More specifically, Pompeo said that “investors prefer countries that have broad religious freedom; commercial actors see places with religious freedom as places more open and with less risk. We think that religious freedom, human rights, and economic success are deeply connected, deeply tied, and we think it benefits American foreign policy to reinforce this.”
In an essay in USA Today Tuesday, Secretary Pompeo emphasized that religious freedom is not the product of statecraft, but a God-given right.
“Religious freedom is a God-given right to which all people are entitled,” Mr. Pompeo wrote.
“That is why President Donald Trump is taking action to protect religious freedom around the world. It belongs to all people, everywhere,” he said.
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