UPDATE: Pope and US Secretary of State Blinken meet in the Vatican

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Climate change, migration and geopolitical hot spots were on the agenda when Pope Francis met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on June 28.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said during the 40-minute meeting, which was “held in a warm atmosphere,” the Pope recalled his visit to the US in 2015 and expressed “his affection and concern for the people of the United States America ”.

It was the Pope’s second meeting with an official from the Biden administration. In May, the Pope met with John Kerry, President Joe Biden’s Special Envoy for Climate.

While the Vatican provided few details about the meetings, US Secretary of State Ned Price said that during his meeting with the Pope, Blinken recognized the “United States'” commitment to work closely with the Holy See to address global challenges and challenges the needs of the world’s least happy and most vulnerable people, including refugees and migrants.

“The Secretary thanked Pope Francis for his longstanding guidance on the need to care for the environment and tackle the climate crisis. The Secretary and Pope Francis also spoke about China and the humanitarian crises in Lebanon, Syria, the Tigray region of Ethiopia and Venezuela, “Price said.

The discussion by Pope Francis and Blinken on the subject of human rights and religious freedom in China is a particular concern of the Vatican.

Despite the renewal of an agreement between China and the Vatican in 2020 on the appointment of bishops, the authorities in China continue to crack down on bishops, priests and seminarians who allegedly violated the country’s new rules on religious matters.

Before the end of his meeting with the Pope, Blinken gave Pope Francis a sculpture of a dove with an olive branch, which, in his opinion, is a symbol of “peace and freedom”.

The Pope in turn presented Blinken with a bas-relief depicting a mother with a child in her arms at the entrance to the colonnade in St. Peter’s Square. Behind her are migrants in a boat on the water, while mother and child have two hands folded in front of her.

Under the picture are engraved the words “Riempiamo le mani di altre mani” (“Let us fill our hands with other hands”) which, according to the Vatican, refer to the Pope’s appeals to welcome others and show mercy. The Pope also gave him bound copies of his encyclical and apostolic admonitions.

Before leaving the Library of the Apostolic Palace, Blinken told Pope Francis that it was “a great pleasure and an honor” to meet him.

At a briefing with journalists, Blinken said his meeting with the Pope was “very warm and very broad” and he praised Pope Francis’ leadership in “advocating for human dignity in everything we do to the best of our ability”.

“We covered a lot and I certainly don’t want to speak for His Holiness, but just speaking for myself and for the United States, I was delighted with the meeting and also with His Holiness’ strong leadership on the pandemic, climate change” and on the subject of migrants and refugees, he said.

Blinken was also asked for his opinion on comments the Pope made in a television interview in January when he expressed his dismay at people who refused to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and their refusal to be “suicidal.” Denial ”.

“I will not speak for the Pope in any way,” Blinken replied. “I think we strongly believe in the importance of vaccination.”

The US Secretary of State said that as long as the virus continues to multiply, the virus will mutate and the chances of an end to the pandemic will worsen.

“We have to move forward. And the way to go about it is to get the fastest vaccine in the world. This is why Italy and the United States are working so closely together to make sure we get vaccines to market, ”he said.

Before meeting the Pope, Blinken met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican State Secretary, and Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican Foreign Minister.

In a tweet posted after the meeting, Blinken said he enjoyed his conversation with the cardinal and archbishop and that during the meeting, “we emphasized continuous collaboration in efforts to promote our shared values ​​and address humanitarian crises around the world” .

According to Price, Blinken, Cardinal Parolin and Archbishop Gallagher reiterated “our joint efforts to promote religious freedom and combat human trafficking”.

The US Secretary of State also reaffirmed “US support for a return to democracy in Venezuela and our desire to help the Venezuelan people rebuild their country”.

Catholic bishops in Venezuela have been vocal about the deepening political and humanitarian crisis in the country, in which an increasingly authoritarian government under President Nicolás Maduro and an imploding economy have forced more than 5 million people to flee since 2015.

Other topics discussed during the meeting were “Migration, climate change and efforts to expand vaccine distribution for COVID-19,” Price said.

Blinken, Cardinal Parolin and Archbishop Gallagher also spoke about “challenges” in several countries including Ethiopia, Belarus, Syria and Lebanon.

In May the Pope announced that he had invited Lebanon’s Christian leaders to meet in the Vatican on July 1, “to reflect on the troubled situation in the country and to pray together for the gift of peace and stability”.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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