Former charity head confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Vatican

RNS () — The U.S. Senate has confirmed former Catholic Relief Services head Ken Hackett to be the next ambassador … Continued

RNS () — The U.S. Senate has confirmed former Catholic Relief Services head Ken Hackett to be the next ambassador to the Vatican.

Hackett replaces Miguel Diaz, a theologian, and he gives President Obama an experienced voice on social justice in Rome where a new pope, Francis, has made caring for the poor a priority.

Hackett’s confirmation came Thursday night (Aug. 1) by unanimous consent as senators wrapped up loose ends before the summer recess.

No opposition was expected since Hackett has strong ties to both parties; for five years he served on the board of former President George W. Bush’s Millennium Challenge Corporation and he is reported to be close to Denis McDonough, Obama’s chief of staff, whose brother is a priest.

Also approved on Thursday night was the nomination of James Costos to be the next ambassador to Spain.

Costos, a former HBO executive and a major Obama fundraiser, was expected to raise some eyebrows since he is openly gay and was being sent to an overwhelmingly Catholic country where the church remains a strong presence.

But Costos was easily confirmed along with Hackett and a raft of other appointees.

As a longtime president of CRS, the American church’s primary international relief arm, Hackett is a familiar figure in Rome, and he has contacts across the U.S. church — even if CRS is not always a favorite of some conservative activists.

In fact, the agency has recently had to defend itself against charges that in providing international aid it works too closely with groups that support family planning policies.

None of that is expected to complicate Hackett’s tenure at the Holy See. Church observers say Hackett’s profile in the political world and in the church could help the administration’s relations with the Catholic hierarchy, which has often been at odds with the White House over gay issues and reproductive rights. And he is likely to be in sync with Francis’ agenda.

“In watching Pope Francis, his focus on changing the way the world looks at issues of poverty and injustice and so many social issues, I think we as Americans are right there,” Hackett told the Catholic Review of Baltimore when he was nominated in June. “There is common cause. That makes me excited.”

Hackett acknowledged that “there will be times where the position of the (Obama) administration differs, obviously, from the Holy See.”

But, he added, “I am going to look for, as many of my predecessors did, those opportunities where we can come together and find strength in collaboration, coincidence of interests. There are some powerful connections, that together, will really make a difference.”

Diaz, the previous U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, left the post last November to teach at the University of Dayton.

There had been some consternation that Obama hadn’t named an ambassador sooner. But the administration had not been moving swiftly on naming appointees and the Senate was not confirming them very quickly either. Then when Pope Benedict XVI announced in February that he would be resigning it behooved the White House to see who emerged as the new pope.

Hackett is expected to take up his duties in Rome later this month.

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

Comments are closed.

Read More Articles

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

concert
Why I Want to Be Culturally Evangelical

I’ve lost my faith. Do I have to lose my heritage, too?

shutterstock_37148347
What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.