President Donald Trump's chief strategist has been cultivating a bond with a right-wing cardinal who's waging war against Pope Francis.
Steve Bannon met with archconservative Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has openly challenged the pope, during a 2014 trip to Rome to cover the canonization of John Paul II for Breitbart News, reported the New York Times.
The American cardinal and Bannon, who is Catholic, held a "meeting of hearts" over their shared antipathy toward Islam and their concerns that the west had abandoned traditional conservative values, according to Benjamin Harnwell, founder of the Institute for Human Dignity and a confidante of Burke.
Bannon shared his apocalyptic vision of the world during a Vatican conference sponsored by Harnwell during that trip. His comments were widely reported after the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president.
The newspaper also reported that he approached Edward Pentin, a conservative Vatican reporter and fierce critic of Pope Francis, about covering Rome for Breitbart -- which Bannon has described as "a platform for the alt-right."
Bannon has maintained a focus on the Vatican since that visit, and returned to direct the documentary "Torchbearer" featuring "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson as the reality TV star considers the apocalypse.
The president's chief strategist also criticizes the pope as a global elitist, echoing concerns by conservative Vatican insiders, the Times reported.
Bannon has encouraged Breitbart and its Rome correspondent, former priest Thomas Williams, to champion Cardinal Burke -- who was punished just weeks ago by Pope Francis.
According to sources within the centuries-old Knights of Malta, the pope felt the chivalrous order's grand master was following the lead of Burke, its chaplain and a Trump supporter, in disobeying Vatican authority, the newspaper reported.
The grand master and Burke were both stripped of their powers within the 1,000-year-old order, although Vatican watchers disputed whether American politics played any role in the scandal.
Esquire columnist Charles Pierce, writing about the Times report, described Burke as a "theological thug" and Bannon as a "political thug."
"(Bannon) is not someone who wants to 'disrupt the elites,' or whatever techie garbage he likes to toss around," Pierce wrote. "He wants to establish himself at the head of a new, worldwide authoritarian elite that will reach into every institution and that will demolish any of those institutions that stand in the way of what he wants."