Conservative media outlets and former Republican officials falsely accused President Barack Obama on Wednesday of instigating a closure of the U.S. embassy to the Vatican -- when in fact the embassy is moving closer to Vatican City.
But in reality, the embassy's move in 2015 will fulfill a plan developed during George W. Bush's presidency, when a new building was acquired adjacent to the compound in Rome where the U.S. Embassy to Italy is located. A State Department official said in a statement that the move will save the U.S. $1.4 million a year in operational costs.
"There is no reduction in diplomatic staff, there's no reduction in ambassadors, there's no reduction in mission. There is simply a reduction in overhead," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Talking Points Memo reported that the National Republican Senatorial Committee set up a website criticizing the White House over the perceived closure.
"This is just 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," the webpage stated.
Despite this, former U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson was quoted as telling the National Catholic Reporter that the new facility turns the Vatican embassy "into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy."
However, a Vatican official downplayed the potential impact, telling CNN it was "an exception, not the ideal, but not the end of the world."
[Image via Agence France-Presse]