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GOP Group Calls Obama ‘Anti-Religion’ After Plan to Move Vatican Embassy Announced

The decision to move the current US Embassy to the Holy See from its current location near Vatican grounds has sparked claims that President Barack Obama is ‘anti-religion’.  Members of the GOP have expressed strong objections to State Department’s plan, which would make the embassy to the Vatican part of the larger Italian embassy complex in Rome.

“It’s turning this embassy into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy,” James Nicholson, former chair of the Republication National Committee and ex-Ambassador to the Holy See insisted. “The Holy See is a pivot point for international affairs.”

Nicholson added that to force the U.S. delegation to share quarters inside the nearby U.S. Embassy in Rome, less than a quarter of a mile from the current site,  is “an insult to American Catholics and to the Vatican.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee also responded to the move by running an ad, which features an angry-looking Obama glaring at the Vatican with the message, “This is just the latest anti-religion pursuit of this administration, a slap in the face to Catholic-Americans around the country that weakens America’s position as a global leader.”

The State Department responded to GOP’s criticism by demanding that the move was made to protect the staff of the US Embassy to the Holy See by giving them a more secure and protected location and had nothing to do with any perceived anti-religious bias.  The spokesperson also pointed out that while sharing grounds with the U.S. Embassy in Rome, the Vatican embassy would retain its own entrance and staff.

“We reject any suggestion that this decision, made for security and administrative reasons, constitutes a downgrading of our relations with the Holy See,” a State Department official said. “The United States continues to regard the Holy See as a key bilateral partner in promoting religious freedom, protecting religious minorities, advancing humanitarian causes, and mitigating conflicts around the world.”

The GOP members opposed to the move, however,  remain unconvinced. “It’s not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists,” former Ambassador to the Holy See Raymond Flynn said. “It’s also those who restrict our religious freedoms and want to close down our embassy to the Holy See.”

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Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.