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Francis Rooney: Moving US Vatican Mission 'Bad Mistake'

By Bill Hoffmann   |   Tuesday, 26 Nov 2013 04:30 PM

The Obama administration's decision to relocate the U.S. Mission to the Vatican because of security concerns is "a really bad mistake," says Francis Rooney, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.

"It's a very bad step . . . [and] would be a huge diminution of the perception of the role of the Holy See mission in Rome for the church and in the world. It's a really bad mistake," Rooney told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

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"The risks are that the Holy See mission becomes perceived as a stepchild and has less resources over time and [is] more dependent on Embassy Rome for its resources than it's heretofore been.

"You know how bureaucracies work. If you don't have a place and you don't have an independent source of resources, than you become subsumed into wherever place you have to get your resources from. That's the big risk," he said Tuesday.

The U.S. government is set to move its mission to the Vatican into a separate building on the grounds of the much larger U.S. Embassy in Rome, 3 miles away.

The move is part of new measures to increase security for U.S. diplomatic facilities worldwide after the terrorist attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, last year, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

"If they don't like the building, there's a lot of other places where they could go find a different physical facility . . . It's about having an independent presence."

Rooney, author of "The Global Vatican: An Inside Look at the Catholic Church, World Politics, and the Extraordinary Relationship between the United States and the Holy See," stopped short of agreeing with some that the move is a "slap in the face" to Catholics.

"I don't know that I would personalize it. The thing is, a free-standing mission says a lot about the United States' emphasis and the value that it places on the Holy See mission," he said.

'When the mission is co-located, it's inevitable that there's a reduction of stature, and that's not a good thing because the opportunity for the United States, for all the reasons we've talked about before to conduct a strong and vibrant diplomacy, to align with the Holy See is good for both parties and good for the world."

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The Obama administration's decision to relocate the U.S. Mission to the Vatican because of security concerns is "a really bad mistake," says Francis Rooney, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.
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