Have the Pope and Barack Obama fallen out?
The former ambassador to the Holy See has slammed Obama's government for its "secular orientation", claiming that it has resulted in a "dramatic cooling" of the relationship between the US and the Vatican.
Francis Rooney, who served under President George W Bush between 2005 and 2008, told Newsmax TV that, "The coolness towards the Holy See began with the beginning of the administration, because the administration has a pretty secular orientation.
"President Obama wrote a book where he basically says there are no absolute truths in the modern era, which would tend to say that there's no religion. He just doesn't look at religion as a stabilising force in society and the Holy See does."
Rooney went on to praise religion as "a very important stabilising influence" and as "necessary for the long-term creation of a good government and stability".
He also brought up Obama's official visit to Rome in March of this year, when the President met Pope Francis for the first time, noting that the newest leader of the US has failed to make a significant effort to reach out to the Vatican as previous Presidents have done.
Rooney thus expressed a desire to see the administration take further opportunities to "pursue common objectives with the Holy See" in the future.
"The diplomacy based on supporting human dignity, the natural rights of man, and religious freedom is something that should appeal to all countries who want a good government," he added.
"The Holy See is uniquely positioned to weigh in in that area because it has soft power resulting from the fact that it's the only clearly recognised entity in the world with no territory."
President Obama has previously been quoted as calling the Pope "a man who lived the Christian Gospel" and has apparently been inspired by the Pontiff's heart for justice and equality. Upon greeting Pope Francis in March he expressed his pleasure at their meeting, saying he is "a great admirer" of the Catholic leader.