Pope Benedict XVI refused to meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in August, saying he was on holiday, an Italian newspaper reported Wednesday.
Rice "made it known to the Vatican that she absolutely had to meet the pope" to boost her diplomatic "credit" ahead of a trip to the Middle East, the Corriere della Sera daily reported without citing its sources.
She was hoping to meet the pontiff at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo at the beginning of August, it said.
"'The pope is on holiday' was the official response," the paper said.
It said the reply "illustrated the divergence of view" between the Vatican and the White House about the "initiatives of the Bush administration in the Middle East."
The newspaper said the pope had rejected all meetings with political representatives during August.
The Vatican press office refused to confirm the report.
There's a certain amount of 'spin' in the AFP report, and it might be worthwhile recalling this story I blogged last year:
The Vatican has sharply cut back the number of political audiences to prevent the Pope being exploited by visiting politicians looking for headlines.
From now on, only heads of government and heads of state will be granted an audience with the pontiff.
A set of tough new rules has been drafted to protect 79-year-old Pope Benedict XVI from the flood of requests that arrive daily.