US Secretary of State John Kerry Visits Vatican

Lengthy Meeting With Archbishop Pietro Parolin Focuses on Middle East, US Healthcare Reform

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Ahead of the upcoming Geneva II Conference, US Secretary of State John Kerry met this morning with his Vatican counterpart, Archbishop Pietro Parolin.

According to Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, the meeting lasted roughly an hour and 40 minutes. Also present at the meeting were Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States, and Kenneth Hackett, the US Ambassador to the Holy See.

The main subject for discussion was «naturally the question of the Middle East and in particular, the Syrian situation, as well as the Peace Conference in Geneva which is scheduled for the month of January,” Fr. Lombardi said in a statement.

Archbishop Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, reiterated several concerns expressed by Pope Francis during yesterday’s audience with the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See.

“It is unacceptable that unarmed civilians, especially children, become targets,” the Holy Father said of Syria during his address. “I also encourage all parties to promote and ensure in every way possible the provision of urgently-needed aid to much of the population, without overlooking the praiseworthy effort of those countries – especially Lebanon and Jordan – which have generously welcomed to their territory numerous refugees from Syria.”

The two also discussed the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. The Pope expressed his hope for a lasting solution yesterday and recently announced that he would embark on a “pilgrimage of peace” to the Holy Land in May.

Fr. Lombardi said Archbishop Parolin made known to Mr. Kerry concerns of the Holy See and US Bishops regarding healthcare reform in relation to religious freedom and conscientious objection in the United States. Debate continues to rage in the US over the administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate which requires employers to cover contraception, abortifacients and sterilization in their insurance plans.

Although the Obama administration has made several concessions to religious institutions, employers who are Catholic are still compelled by law to cover contraceptives against their conscience.

Fr. Lombardi noted that the meeting was conducted in a positive and constructive atmosphere. The duration of the meeting, he said, “manifests the significance that it had.” (J.A.E.)

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