The U.S. Navy warmly welcomed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the Naval Support Activity Souda Bay’s facilities, in Crete, where he celebrated American’s alliance with Greece, but when in Rome, Pompeo found himself to be persona non grata.
While in the Eastern Mediterranean, Pompeo visited Rome where he sought audience with Pope Francis; however, the pope declined Pompeo’s request because [Pope] Francis had “clearly said that he does not receive political figures ahead of the elections,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who, as secretary of state, is the Vatican’s second-ranking official, told reporters.
Pompeo had denounced the Vatican’s plans to renew an agreement with the Chinese government on Church operations in China. The Vatican was taken aback by an article that Pompeo published in First Things, a conservative Christian magazine that has called Francis a failure as Pope, also mattered. And then Pompeo tweeted about it.
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. https://t.co/fl0TEnYxKS
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 19, 2020
The terms of the two-year provisional agreement have never been publicly disclosed; but the Church’s hope was that it would improve the condition of Catholics in China by reaching agreement with the Chinese regime on the appointment of bishops, the traditional stewards of the faith in local communities, according to Pompeo’s article.
The Pope has been off the public stage, physically, for six months during the pandemic, the Vatican said, with his opinions only coming via letter. The last appearance remembered on our shores was Good Friday, where he was broadcast waving from a balcony.
Before trying to tackle the Pontiff, Pompeo met US Navy and Greek foreign affairs officials at the Naval Support Activity Souda Bay’s facilities, renewing the shared commitment to advance security, peace, and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean and celebrate the strongest U.S.-Greek relationship in decades, according to the U.S. State Department.
“Today, I am in Crete to showcase one of America’s strongest military relationships throughout all of Europe,” Pompeo during a press briefing. “We, the Americans, look to Greece for a true pillar of stability and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean and we are incredibly proud to support its leadership.”
Deeply impressed by my visit to @NSA_SoudaBay. Thanks to the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement @NikosDendias and I signed last year, our military-to-military relationship has been enhanced significantly. The strong @NATO Alliance continues to contribute to regional security. pic.twitter.com/xOORGIn2Gt
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 29, 2020
NSA Souda Bay’s facilities are hosted on board the Hellenic Air Force 115th Combat Air Wing military base and serve as the premier intermodal logistics hub for the Fleet and the Joint Force by providing 24/7 access to a major airport, protected deep water pier facility, and fuel and supplies from a strategically important location.
Sec. Pompeo also traveled to the Marathi NATO Pier Facility where he toured a Naval Special Warfare Combatant Craft Medium boat and the Hellenic Navy Frigate H.S. Salamis (F-445).