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Key Issues
July 7, 2015

Key Issues

International Religious Freedom

Protecting the universal right of religious freedom is a cornerstone priority of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Holy See.  The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See works closely with the Vatican and other Catholic partners to secure the future of not just Christian minorities but all religious minorities who are persecuted for practicing their faith.

Religious understanding and tolerance are bulwarks against the forces of extremism — they are the necessary foundations of peace and security around the world.  Protecting and defending this integral human right — at home and abroad — is fundamental to America’s founding principles.

The right to worship freely is one of America’s first freedoms.  It was codified in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

As stated in the U.S. National Security Strategy, “Our Founders understood religious freedom not as the state’s creation but as the gift of God to every person and a fundamental right for our flourishing society.” America’s indivisible and common fidelity to this right endures to this day. President Trump has made clear that the protection and promotion of religious freedom is a top foreign policy priority for the United States.

Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

Human trafficking is a global crisis.  More than 25 million men, women, and children worldwide are its victims.  They are often lured with false promises by people they trust – including family members – and forced into prostitution, domestic servitude, or other forms of modern slavery.

The United States is committed to ending this horrific crime, and we have a committed partner in the Holy See.  Both President Trump and Pope Francis are fiercely committed to eradicating human trafficking.  The United States has a long history of working with the Vatican and other Church-related organizations on this endeavor.  These efforts have been emboldened under President Trump’s leadership.

The path to ending human trafficking demands action, but also cooperation.  No single government or individual can do it alone.  Governments, faith-based organizations, civil society, and survivors must work together.

Democracy, Peace and Security

Promoting freedom and democracy and protecting human rights around the world are central to U.S. foreign policy and U.S.-Holy See bilateral engagement.  The values captured in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in other global and regional commitments are consistent with the values upon which the United States was founded.

The United States uses a wide range of tools to advance peace and freedom throughout the world, including bilateral diplomacy, multilateral engagement, foreign assistance, reporting and public outreach, and economic sanctions.  The United States is committed to working with democratic partners, international and regional organizations, faith-based organizations, and others to support those seeking freedom.

Bilateral engagement with the Holy See is crucial in this endeavor.  With an unrivaled grassroots reach around the world, Catholic Church partners play a critical role in responding to humanitarian crises, to safeguarding human rights, and to mediating and preventing conflict and violence.

Humanitarian Assistance

The Catholic Church and affiliated organizations are some of the greatest humanitarian providers in the world and key partners for the United States.  The Holy See has provided over $1 billion in support to those displaced by conflict in Syria and Iraq, providing for almost four million beneficiaries in 2018 alone.  The Catholic Church, the largest non-government provider of education and medical services in the world and a major player in relief and development work, maintains a vast humanitarian network, second only to the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent.

The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See regularly engages with Vatican and Catholic agencies and organizations for information sharing and partnership in the humanitarian sphere.  These include Vatican institutions like the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and a number of Church-affiliated organizations, like the Community of Sant’Egidio, Caritas Internationalis, and Jesuit Relief Services.