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POPE FRANCIS WILL MEET WITH BLINKEN, TOP US DIPLOMAT

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By Aishat Momoh. O.

On Friday, officials said that Pope Francis, will meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, next week, in what will be the pontiff’s highest-level talks with the new US administration yet.

Blinken, who is on a tour of Europe, will meet with Pope Francis and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the pope’s de facto foreign minister on Monday in the Vatican.

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Francis has spoken out in support of President Joe Biden’s administration’s core priorities, such as accelerating the battle against climate change and expressing compassion for refugees.

The Vatican was also a crucial player in the Obama administration’s behind-the-scenes diplomacy to normalize relations with Cuba, a move that was halted by former President Donald Trump.

During Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Francis criticized the mogul’s drive to erect a wall on the US-Mexico border, and the two had a tense relationship.

Fearing being used for Trump’s political gain, the pope rejected to meet Blinken’s predecessor, Mike Pompeo, soon before the election.

While his government has been harshly critical of China’s human rights record, Biden is a devoted Catholic who has avoided commenting on the Vatican’s connection with Beijing.

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