I recently celebrated my birthday with some friends from Rome, including theologian Marian Diaz and her husband Miguel, the former United States Ambassador to the Holy See. The Lateran Accords of 1929 established the Vatican City State as its own independent country, one technically and completely enclosed within the city of Rome. Because of this fact, many nations have distinct diplomatic relationships with Italy and with the Holy See (the Vatican’s sovereign governing entity).
Since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the U.S. has maintained individual ambassadorial missions to Italy, the Holy See, and the U.N. Agencies in Rome, the last largely focused on food, agriculture and world hunger. Miguel served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See from 2009-12, following Mary Ann Glendon in the post and preceding current ambassador Ken Hackett. Miguel was born in Havana, before immigrating to Florida. His graduate degrees are from Notre Dame.
I was able to visit the embassy in their offices on the Aventine hill overlooking the Circus Maximus a few times. It was a lovely, if not sprawling, compound tucked behind the Roman rose garden in the former Villa Domiziana. But after some recent political tugs-of-war, the offices have been moved in the last few weeks to a campus sharing the ground with the larger Embassy to Italy.
The Embassy to the Holy See released a statement saying their staff feels the move will “be a significant upgrade in the quality, size, and safety of our facility. The new building will provide a secure and modern workspace for staff and visitors in a space that is substantially larger than our current building.”
The relocation has been supported by the U.S. Department of State, who have called for government facilities in foreign nations to be gathered together wherever possible for security and financial purposes.
On their website, Vatican.USEmbassy.gov, Ambassador Hackett makes clear: “The U.S. relationship with the Holy See is important and continues to grow as we work together to promote human rights, social justice and peace around the world. The new facility affords us a more robust workspace from which to conduct our engagement with the Vatican and the Catholic humanitarian and academic communities in Rome. We will have greater space for the future possibility of staff increases, and we will have a significant increase in space to host visitors for meetings and events.”
The mission works to partner with the Vatican on a wide range of issues: from dealing with disease and HIV/AIDS around the world to religious freedom and Christian persecution to a multitude of other contemporary issues. Because of the global influence of both the universal church and the United States, and the many policy decisions resulting in complex diplomatic and political consequences, it is a uniquely important post.
Collingswood native Michael M. Canaris, Ph.D., Loyola University Chicago.