Jeb Bush has suggested President Obama's shutdown of the freestanding U.S. Embassy to the Holy See may be "retribution" on Catholics who oppose his signature healthcare law — a powerful rebuke from a top GOP contender for president and the latest in a growing chorus of outrage.
Bush posted on his Twitter account Wednesday his thoughts about the decision to "close" the embassy.
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"Why would our President close our Embassy to the Vatican? Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare," he tweeted
The State Department insists the embassy is not being shuttered, just moved onto the grounds of the larger American Embassy in Rome to ensure increased security and cost savings.
Still, the National Republican Senatorial Committee drew up a petition saying “President Obama plans to close the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican," Politico reported
—and its spokesman, like Bush, characterized the proposal as a "hostile" action.
“This certainly isn’t the first time that the Obama Administration has been perceived as taking actions hostile toward religion and religious freedom,” spokesman Brad Dayspring told CNN
Former envoys all have spoken out against the move as well, including James Nicholson, Francis Rooney, Mary Ann Glendon, Raymond Flynn and Thomas Melady, the Washington Times
And on Fox News
, Nicholson railed: "It's a dimunation of the stature of that U.S. post."
With "unrest, upheaval, discrimination and violence ... against Christians in the Middle East, this post we have is a key place," he said, adding it "seems very odd to diminish the stature of this to move it into some office annex..."
"Clearly this is a rebuke of the importance of this relationship with the Vatican... an insult to American Catholics," he added. "It won't have the stature and influence it used to have in dealing with these very serious problems... it's a very important listening post."
"It's ... almost inexplicable."
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Vatican said the move was well within the Holy See's requirements for embassies and that relations with the United States are far from strained, CNN
The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Canadian priest who works with the Vatican's press office, said the Vatican requires foreign embassies to the Holy See be separate from the country's mission to Italy, have a separate address and have a separate entrance.
Rosica said the proposed move satisfies those requirements, CNN reported.
Another Vatican official, however, old CNN the Holy See understands security concerns are an issue for some countries and this move is "an exception, not the ideal, but not the end of the world."
The embassy will make the move in early 2015, CNN reported.
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