WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has nominated Ken Hackett, the former head of Catholic Relief Services, as the next U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.
Auxiliary Bishop Denis Madden of Baltimore, a former Catholic Relief Services board member, said the appointment was “great news.” He said Hackett has many skills relevant to the diplomatic position representing U.S. interests at the Vatican.
“He has traveled all over the world and worked with [Vatican representatives], bishops and general consuls in all those places, and he has dealt successfully with plenty of sticky situations,” Bishop Madden told the Baltimore Sun.
Hackett, 66, was born in the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. and graduated from Boston College in 1968. He served with the Peace Corps in Ghana.
The White House’s Friday announcement cited Hackett’s 40 years of service with Catholic Relief Services, including his term as president and CEO from 1993 to 2012. He served as the agency’s African regional director and as country representative in the Philippines.
Catholic Relief Services is the international-relief arm of the Catholic Church in the U.S. and a partner of Caritas International. In 2012, the agency served more than 100 million people in 91 countries with a budget of almost $700 million, its annual report said.
The White House also noted Hackett’s role as American vice president of Caritas International and as a member of the Pontifical Commission Cor Unum, which helps the Pope carry out special initiatives in humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
Hackett served for five years on the board of directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. foreign-aid agency created by Congress in January 2004.
He received the University of Notre Dame’s prestigious Laetare Medal in 2012. He is presently a consultant for the university’s Institute for Global Development.
Miguel Diaz, who resigned as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See in November 2012 to become a professor at the University of Dayton, welcomed the appointment.
Diaz said June 14 that Hackett “brings a wealth of experience and perspective on issues related to global health and humanitarian assistance, as well as service to the poor.”
The ambassador appointment is a sensitive decision in light of the Obama administration’s strong international support for legal abortion and homosexual political causes like the redefinition of marriage. The Obama administration is also embroiled in a major religious-freedom controversy with the U.S. bishops over mandatory coverage of sterilization and contraceptive drugs, including abortifacients, in health-care plans.
U.S. foreign policy has also faced criticism on several fronts, including its endangerment of Christian minorities in the Middle East.
The U.S. Embassy to the Vatican was established only in 1984 under President Ronald Reagan.
The U.S. Senate must now confirm Hackett’s nomination.
Other new ambassadorial nominations include ambassadors to Brazil, Spain, Germany, Denmark and Ethiopia.