President Donald Trump’s right-hand man in the White House is reportedly taking on the Vatican in the face of what he sees as a potential “socialist” in Pope Francis.
According to The New York Times, Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has traveled to Rome at least once — including in 2014, when he tried to forge some friendships with conservatives affiliated with the church.
American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has butted heads with Pope Francis since the latter was elected to his position in 2013, met with Bannon and became friends with the now former executive chairman of Breitbart News. The pair now talks regularly, the Times reports.
According to the Times, Bannon has put together a group of confidants within the Catholic Church that are against the direction in which Francis has taken it. Critics of the 266th pope believe he is taking a more liberal approach to his role.
Some of the issues Francis feels strongly about include accepting refugees and the dangers of climate change. Trump recently signed an executive order that temporarily stopped the flow of refugees and migrants from certain countries into the United States, and the administration believes climate change has been blown out of proportion.
Benjamin Harnwell, who is close to Cardinal Burke and who set up the 2014 meeting between Burke and Bannon, told the Times the church needs to get back on course.
“There are huge areas where we and the pope do overlap, and as a loyal Catholic, I don’t want to spend my life fighting against the pope on issues where I won’t change his mind,” Harnwell said. “Far more valuable for me would be spend time working constructively with Steve Bannon.”