Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

December 7, 2013

Fact Check: Jeb Bush says Obama closing embassy to Vatican

‘Tis the season to make claims about holy matters.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is Catholic, tweeted on the day before Thanksgiving, “Why would our president close the embassy to the Vatican? Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare.”

Did President Barack Obama close the embassy to the Vatican as a way of sticking it to them over Obamacare? That sounds like some un-divine intervention. But is it the truth? (It would be a venial sin to omit a hat-tip to the Washington Post Fact Checker, which ran a check on this earlier today. CNN also did a fact check earlier.)

The Holy See

The Vatican maintains diplomatic relations with more than 175 countries. In 1984, the United States and the Vatican established full diplomatic relations, and the Senate confirmed the first ambassador. (Prior to that the U.S. had diplomatic relations on and off.)

No country has an embassy to the Holy See within the Vatican City proper - all of them are located within the city of Rome, according to the State Department. The current United States embassy is in a converted residential property in Rome, about 1.9 miles from the Vatican.

The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See has seven U.S. diplomatic personnel, plus support staff. Its budget is just over $3.5 million, not counting costs associated with the local guard force, state department spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala told PolitiFact.

“The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See is, and will remain, among the largest foreign missions to the Holy See,” she said.

While discussions about embassy security have increased in the wake of the deadly attack on a United States facility in Benghazi, Libya, the idea of relocating the embassy to the Vatican had been considered as long ago as 2005, after the addition to a building at the U.S. embassy compound in Rome, according to an Inspector General report in 2008, when George W. Bush was president. Currently, the embassy to the Vatican isn’t at the same spot as our embassy to Italy.

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