the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) harsh crackdown on religious groups has only increased in the two years since the Vatican signed a deal between the Catholic church and Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo previously criticized the deal, which is up for renewal next month, and he is headed to the Vatican this week to meet with officials.

However, the pope has reportedly refused to meet with him, citing the upcoming presidential elections as his reason.

Criticism from the Trump administration on the accord, details of which have never been made public, could be a factor in the pope’s refusal, reported The Independent.

What is known of the agreement, is a process for allowing the nomination of new bishops and regularizing of the status of seven bishops who weren’t recognized by the Vatican.

Many critics of the accord, including the retired archbishop of Hong Kong, have leveled accusations at the Vatican for betraying Catholics in China who refuse to become members of the state-sanctioned church.

Last month, Pompeo criticized the accord in First Things magazine, as reported by The Independent.

“The human rights situation in China has deteriorated severely under the autocratic rule of Xi Jinping, especially for religious believers,” said Pompeo. He added there have been “credible reports” of “forced sterilizations and abortions of Muslims in Xinjiang” as well as “abuse of Catholic priests and laypeople.”

Pompeo disagrees with the Vatican’s decision to renew its deal with the CCP as it faces accusations over its atrocious human rights and persecution of Christians and other minority religious groups.

“The Holy See has a unique capacity and duty to focus the world’s attention on human rights violations, especially those perpetrated by totalitarian regimes like Beijing’s,” Pompeo wrote. “In the late 20th century, the church’s power of moral witness helped inspire those who liberated central and eastern Europe from communism and those who challenged autocratic and authoritarian regimes in Latin America and East Asia.”

“Two years on, it’s clear that the Sino-Vatican agreement has not shielded Catholics from the [Communist] Party’s depredations, to say nothing of the Party’s horrific treatment of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong devotees, and other believers,” Pompeo wrote.

He added, “Now more than ever, the Chinese people need the Vatican’s moral witness and authority in support of China’s religious believers.” reported the Washington Post.

The Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the foreign minister for the Vatican, will meet with Pompeo on Thursday. However, Pope Francis, whom Pompeo met last October, will not be meeting with him.

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