Last week, on October 21, new U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Kenneth Hackett presented his credentials to Pope Francis and went right to work. Ambassador Hackett, who had served for 18 years as president of Catholic Relief Services, has launched a blog in which he plans to share stories during his tenure in Rome.
In his first blog entry, Ambassador Hackett highlights the areas of concern which the U.S. and the Vatican share.
The United States and the Holy See have converging global interests that span a broad range of issues. A desire to promote human rights and social justice is the foundation of a relationship that is strong, relevant, and enduring.
The focus of Pope Francis on the issues of poverty, simplicity, and human dignity offers inspiration to leaders around the world and offers great promise for continued partnership between our two countries. We both work to make a difference on a range of important global issues such as trafficking in persons, interreligious dialogue, conflict resolution, food access and security, HIV/AIDS, and care for the environment. And I look forward to deepening, and expanding where possible, that collaboration during my time in Rome.
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In 2003 (or thereabouts), while leading a pilgrimage to Rome, I had the unique opportunity to attend a dinner party at Villa Richardson, the residence of U.S. Ambassadors to the Holy See. Our hosts for the evening were then-Ambassador Jim Nicholson and his wife Suzanne.
Here, a few photos from my album.
A bus transported our pilgrims to the residence on Rome’s Janiculum Hill, overlooking the Circus Maximus. We were treated to spectacular views of the city’s lights as our bus climbed the hill—and then we entered the Ambassador’s compound. A list of our names and Social Security numbers had been presented to the Embassy in advance of our arrival; now, we were cleared by security before being permitted to enter the residence.
Then the bus pulled out, leaving us to enjoy a strolling dinner on the patio and the hillside. Lest we think that this residence was like any other mansion on the hill, there was a loud thud—as the heavy iron gates slammed tight, securing the Embassy and its guests.
From a balcony off the living room, Ambassador Nicholson welcomed his guests. Standing on the balcony (L-R) are Tom Monaghan, founder of Legatus; Cardinal Francis Stafford, then President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity; Ambassador Jim Nicholson and his wife Suzanne. Suzanne Nicholson is herself an accomplished artist and shared with us a new book she had produced, introducing schoolchildren to the Embassy.
We enjoyed an excellent repast: hors d’oeuvres and beverages served on the hillside patio by the Embassy’s uniformed waiters. We also enjoyed the two light shows: above, the countless stars in the heavens; and below, the lights of Rome, with the great Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance. Before we ate, though, Cardinal Stafford led the group in prayer.
We were permitted to see the Embassy’s public spaces: the kitchen, the entrance hall, the living room, the library, the office.
Here, in the office, is the desk at which the Ambassador works.
And here, from the 1920s, is a photo of Villa Richardson from the street, before the security walls were installed.