According to senior Vatican officials, the Pope has declined meeting requests with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pope Francis fears a meeting could drag the Catholic Church into the toxic political fray of election season.  

"Yes, he asked. But the pope had already said clearly that political figures are not received in election periods. That is the reason," Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin explained to ANSA, Italy's leading news agency.  

However, while the Vatican does not want to become entangled in political affairs regarding the election, the Pontiff has come under fire for failing to utilize its "moral authority" over China's Xinjiang region. This area of China has faced recent international criticism for the Chinese Communist Party's oppression of Uighur Muslim people. Pompeo has urged the Catholic Church and the Pope to exercise its "capacity to influence" to denounce China's mass internment camps and repressive measures against the Uighur Muslims.  

The Holy See is nearing the end of a two-year agreement with Beijing in which the Vatican has some say over who becomes a Chinese Catholic bishop. While it is widely believed to be renewed again, Pompeo urged the Vatican and the Catholic Church not to let worldly matters deter from taking "principled stances." As an outspoken critic and opponent of China, Pompeo has warned that the "Vatican endangers its moral authority, should it renew the deal."