The U.S. is moving its stand-alone Vatican embassy into a bigger compound that’s also home to the American embassy to Italy. Why? In a word, savings: the State Department estimates it’ll keep another $1.4 million in its coffers annually once the shift is complete, according to the Washington Post.
The planned move was met with outrage from some in the U.S. who argue it’s a slight against the Vatican and Catholicism at large. Former U.S. ambassador James Nicholson called the move a “massive downgrade” in U.S.-Vatican relations. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, meanwhile, launched a website saying President Barack Obama “plans to close the U.S. embassy to the Vatican,” calling it “a slap in the face to Catholic Americans around the country,” though the Vatican embassy won’t be letting go of any of its seven staffers, notes the Post.
The State Department and Vatican have worked quickly to quiet the growing discontent over the planned move. U.S. officials this week highlighted the need for a more secure embassy location, while a Vatican spokesperson said the new American embassy is “well within the Holy See’s requirements for embassies and that relations with the United States are far from strained,” according to CNN.
What’s the big deal about the Vatican embassy? The Vatican is the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world, landlocked by Italy but not part of it. That means foreign governments wishing to deal directly with the Vatican set up Vatican-specific embassies. Under the new plan, the U.S. will still have a Vatican embassy, but it will be outside the Vatican walls some 1.9 miles from the Holy See.