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Pompeo. Photo: Getty

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit the Vatican on Tuesday to protest the pending renewal of a controversial deal with China.

Behind the scenes: Pope Francis has reportedly declined to meet with Pompeo, citing the imminent U.S. election.

The big picture: The terms of the deal with Beijing are secret, but it reportedly gives the Vatican a say in the appointment of bishops in the government-sanctioned Church in China.

It's controversial for multiple reasons.

  1. Some critics argued that cutting a deal with the Chinese government meant selling out the many Chinese Catholics who take the risk of worshipping in non-sanctioned churches.
  2. Others including Pompeo contend that in order to facilitate stronger ties with China, the Church has declined to take a strong stand against China's human rights abuses.
  • "The Vatican endangers its moral authority, should it renew the deal," Pompeo tweeted earlier this month.

Between the lines: It's highly unusual for a senior U.S. official to criticize the pope so forcefully.

Worth noting: Francis already has plenty on his plate. He removed a senior cardinal who had been viewed as a potential future pope last week over claims he embezzled Church funds, per AP.

Go deeper

Scoop: Trump administration declassifies unconfirmed intel on Chinese bounties

Trump speaks during a press conference on China in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 29. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is declassifying as-yet uncorroborated intelligence, recently briefed to President Trump, that indicates China offered to pay non-state actors in Afghanistan to attack American soldiers, two senior administration officials tell Axios.

The big picture: The disclosure of this unconfirmed intelligence comes 21 days before the end of Trump's presidency, after he has vowed to ratchet up pressure on China, and months after news reports indicated that the Russians had secretly offered bounties for Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.