Fact Check: Obama is not planning 'to close the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican'
November 27th, 2013
04:52 PM ET
9 months ago

Fact Check: Obama is not planning 'to close the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican'

Washington (CNN) - The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the organization tasked with electing and reelecting Republican senators, has issued a petition that states "President Obama plans to close the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican." The problem: The NRSC’s claim is misleading.

The organization says the move is "the latest anti-religion pursuit of this Administration, a slap in the face to Catholic-Americans around the country that weakens America’s position as a global leader."

Here is the truth: Neither Obama, nor the State Department, are planning on permanently closing the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See – also known as the Vatican. What is happening, however, is the building the embassy is currently using is being moved to a property closer to Vatican City.

Last week, the State Department announced it was moving its freestanding Vatican embassy to a compound shared with the U.S. Embassy in Italy and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. On a call with reporters, a senior State Department official said the purpose for the move was to save money and increase security.

In response, former ambassadors to the Holy See – like Jim Nicholson, who served under President George. W. Bush, and Raymond Flynn, who served under President Bill Clinton – cautioned in interviews with other news outlets that the move from a freestanding building without a compound would signal a diminishing relationship between the U.S. and the Vatican.

"It's turning this embassy into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy," Nicholson told the National Catholic Reporter.

Conservative Catholic activists then seized on the news and began assailing the Obama administration with claims of being "anti-Catholic."

But in an interview with CNN, a spokesman for the Vatican said the move was well within the Holy See's requirements for embassies and that relations with the United States are far from strained.

Another Vatican official, not authorized to speak on the record about diplomatic relations, said the Vatican understands there were security concerns with the current embassy and the move is "not the ideal, but not the end of the world."

Brad Dayspring, communications director for the NRSC, told CNN that "the petition is in response to an Administration policy" and that the move "is one perceived by many Catholics as hostile and completely unnecessary."

"This certainly isn't the first time that the Obama Administration has been perceived as taking actions hostile toward religion and religious freedom," he said.

When questioned about the fact their petition implies the administration is permanently closing, Dayspring said "it was written yesterday in response to initial rounds of media reports" but continued to defend the claim.

In response to charges that the move will hurt relations between the Vatican and the U.S., the State Department official pointed out there will be "no reduction in diplomatic staff, there’s no reduction in ambassadors, there’s no reduction in mission."

"The plan is to have the U.S. mission to the Holy See relocate to a building" inside the current U.S. government compound, said the official. "We figure that we will save about $1.4 million a year in lease and operating costs in moving them."

Some former ambassadors to the Holy See have expressed outrage at the fact that embassy is moving within a compound.

Francis Rooney, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush, told CNN the move will "depreciate the prestige of the mission."

But not all ambassadors feel the same way.

Ambassador Miguel H. Diaz, who served as Obama's first ambassador to the Holy See, said he firmly believes "it is absolutely erroneous, to interpret this decision in any way as the intention of the Obama administration to undermine or diminish the relationship between the United States and the Holy See."

What's more, Rooney said that making this a political issue – about whether the Obama administration his anti-Catholic – is bad for diplomacy.

"I would rather focus the discussion on the mission itself and the diplomacy and try to get away whether it is anti Catholic or pro Catholic," he said. "I think the debate ought to be what is best for the mission, not that this is another onslaught of secularism."


Filed under: Obama administration
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. O'drama ya Mama

    Anyone gonna call the GOP out on their lies?

    November 27, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  2. ChrisM

    Republicans again with the misinformation. You think you are being smart repubs, but the Majority of Americans know your "playbook" of obstruction and misinformation and why you are playing that game.
    You only want to hurt this President and you DO NOT care if you hurt the American people in the process

    November 27, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  3. anotherGDlefty

    Cripes Mr. President, would you just declare breathing as a much needed function to survive so that all the bagger idiots will suffocate themselves....maybe then we can start to function as a country again instead of political tribes.

    November 27, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  4. Silence DoGood

    The mythological War on Religion – how can these good Christian groups lie so easily? You can tell the tree by its fruit!

    November 27, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  5. Kevin

    So....... republicans knowingly twisted the facts to make themselves look better. In other breaking news, the sun came up again this morning.

    November 27, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  6. Ol' Yeller

    More lies from the desparate republicants to undermine the President of the United States of America. Shame on CNN for saying- "The NRSC’s claim is 'misleading'."

    Yes, the statement may be 'misleading' in that the embassy is closing (so that another can open), but when taken with the context of their release which includes the statement- " "the latest anti-religion pursuit of this Administration, a slap in the face to Catholic-Americans around the country that weakens America’s position as a global leader."; then we leave the realm of 'misleading' and enter the land of lies and propaganda.

    A reasonable individual at some point musk ask themselves, why do the republicants have to issue 'misleading statements, or statements taken out of context, or outright falsehoods? If they truly are a party worth voting for and wish to be seen as statesmen and leaders of the American people, then why not enter the ring with no foreign objects, no gloves with the padding cleverly removed, and no under the table payments to the ref? Why not fight fair if your ideas and positions are truly superior as you wish to claim on here each and every day.
    Something to think about over the Holidays righties. Not that I expect you would 'all of the sudden' start using your noggins for something other than keeping your ears from touching, but it is nice to think there may be one or two of you left out there who actually are capable of some abstract thought.

    November 27, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  7. rs

    It is chilling the ease with which the GOP spins out its angry and divisive lies. It is as if the GOP cannot tell the truth anymore, everything they say being filtered through the lens of political advantage. The shocking thing is just how little work or investigation it takes to reveal their mistruths. What utter losers.

    November 27, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  8. Ol' Yeller

    How the right wing machine continues to work....

    Earl: Whatchya' doin' Cletus?
    Cletus: Watchin' the race.
    Earl: How's Jr. doin'?
    Cletus: runnin third, but hammerin' down.
    Earl: Hey Cletus, Didja' hear Obama done went and shut that there vatican place down.
    Cletus: Really? I told you he was a muslim.
    Earl: Yeah, I know. Hey, have one of them kids bring me a beer.... you still home schoolin' 'em?
    Cletus: Yep. Don't want them stoopid librul teachers anywhere near my kids.

    November 27, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  9. nintex

    Hey tea party! The vast majority of Americans aren't as dumb as you think we are. We can see through all your crap like seeing through a pane of glass. You are playing to a smaller and smaller crowd of nutjobs who seem increasingly desperate to put President Obama in a bad light. But guess who is really being seen in a very bad light? (Try looking in a mirror).

    November 27, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  10. bill

    if you like your embassy you can keep your embassy period.

    November 27, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  11. rs

    One must note that the group that is perpetrating "closing the Vatican Embassy" lie, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been behind all of Sen. Cruz whoppers about the ACA (including that Congress is "exempt from the ACA"). This is the official disinformation arm of the GOP in the Senate.

    November 27, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  12. nintex

    And nice to see some fact-checking for once, CNN. So tired of reading articles just reporting on republicans' lies with no rebuttal containing actual facts – someone in the press needs to stand up to their lies. How about more fact-checking in future stories?

    November 27, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  13. Tampa Tim

    Fox and Fools sensationalized this lie this morning. Wonder if they will apologize.

    November 27, 2013 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  14. i'malib

    rs

    It is chilling the ease with which the GOP spins out its angry and divisive lies. It is as if the GOP cannot tell the truth anymore, everything they say being filtered through the lens of political advantage. The shocking thing is just how little work or investigation it takes to reveal their mistruths. What utter losers.
    ------------------------------------------
    Yeah, obama never said you can keep your health plan and doctor. He also never said your premiums would drop by $2500 dollars neither. Those stupid 'publicans said that and more. Lord obama has never lied. Ever. The 'publicans actually have a fake obama they use on tv and put words in his mouth that he never said. Liar 'publicans!!

    November 27, 2013 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  15. Stuffit

    The regime claims thy will save $1.4 million per year. Obama will cost the taxpayers more than that on his annual junket to Hawaii.

    November 27, 2013 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  16. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    What else would you expect from the GOP party of STUPID?????

    November 27, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  17. Woman In California

    Thanksgiving lies bought to you by none other than the GOP. Gobble, gobble.

    November 27, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  18. Evergreen

    The move appears to accomplish to goals: It's saving tax payer dollars and providing increased security for our embassy. These are goals the GOP claim their are for, until the President does it. Then its ok to waste taxpayer money and not secure our embassy.

    November 27, 2013 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  19. sonkarlay

    It's a shame to see how they hate facts, this president luv this country like every one dose ecept republicans for political games

    November 27, 2013 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  20. just me

    Ol' Yeller said it better than Icould've. Not only was their statement of fact a lie, but then they built on that lie with two more about the supposed motive and consequencesof the first lie. No doubt the rwnjs will soon be clamoring for heads to roll at the nrsc. Yeeeaaah ...

    November 27, 2013 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  21. Jonathon Powelly

    In the land of the GOP,creating controversy where none exists.

    November 28, 2013 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  22. Lielol

    Obama never lied to USA

    November 28, 2013 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  23. ThinkAgain

    This latest lie from the GOP is what they consider a two-fer: stir up the ignorant evangelicL Christians with the anti-religion rhetoric and pretend to care about Hispanics who are predominantly Catholic.

    If the GOP really wants to get in tune with the Holy See, it ought to read the Pontiff's writings of late. He pretty much nails the GOP in his objection to the soulless pursuit of money and power at the expense of the least among us.

    November 28, 2013 02:51 am at 2:51 am |
  24. ACSJ

    The State Dept IS closing the embassy and moving it to Rome Quit sucking up and covering for the President

    November 28, 2013 04:25 am at 4:25 am |
  25. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    The GOP has 0 credibility on any subject and are just plain incompetent liers!!!!

    November 28, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
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