The announcement by the White House to move the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See to the grounds of the nearby U.S. Embassy in Italy is "foolish" and "not in our national interest," former Ambassador to the Holy See Jim Nicholson told "Fox & Friends."
"It's not in our national interest at all," Nicholson said Wednesday. "It's a foolish thing to be doing. And, it's not necessary."
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The White House announced late last year it would merge the two embassies in a cost-cutting move, expected to save $1.4 million. In a statement by the State Department, it listed safety and size as reasons for the move. It also stated the new building would be "architecturally more appealing" than its present location.
Nicholson said the U.S. had never merged two embassies into one location. He called it a "real diminishment of the both real and perceived importance of that relationship that we have with the Holy See."
Safety was not an issue, according to Nicholson, saying Italy's prime minister assured him the embassy could be secured. The current site is one of the most "coveted locations" in Rome, he maintained.
"One of the assistant secretaries of state said, in giving reasons for this, said, 'That building is ugly. It's lopsided. And, it's unprepossessing.' That building sits in one of the most beautiful locations in the city of Rome," he said.
Nicholson questioned the motivation for moving the embassy of "one of the most important diplomatic relationships we have." He said some had said it was "anti-Catholic."
The White House announced Tuesday President Barack Obama plans an upcoming meeting with Pope Francis. Obama made reference in a December speech to statements by the Pope on the gap in the U.S. between the rich and poor.
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