The Washington Post

Hillary Clinton only secretary in years to skip the Vatican

Warren Christopher, did he visit a pope? (TAMI CHAPPELL/REUTERS)

We were relying on the official records compiled by the State Department historian’s office.

But some former top aides to Christopher insist the records are wrong, and they are pretty sure they were at the Vatican with President Clinton, Christopher and Pope John Paul II.

Well, let’s see.

The historian’s records say Christopher “accompanied President Clinton to meetings with Prime Minister Berlusconi, President Scalfaro, and senior Italian officials.” He was in Rome and in the resort town of Nettuno in June 1994, the record says.

No mention of the Vatican or the Pope.

We asked Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler about this. He unearthed a briefing transcript in which former ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn introduces Christopher by saying, “If only he looked like Gregory Peck, he’d be the greatest public official in America” and notes that they met that June 2, 1994, with the Vatican’s secretary of state.

Flynn told us via e-mail that Christopher was at the Vatican. What’s more, Flynn has a picture on page 110 of his 2001 book on John Paul II of a gathering at the Vatican with Clinton, John Paul II, Flynn and, yes, Warren Christopher.

So, our column should have said that Clinton is the only secretary of state since Richard Nixon’s first secretary of state, William Rogers, to bypass the Holy See.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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