ROME — A diplomatic vacancy at the Vatican almost one year old came to an end, now that the U.S. Senate has approved the former head of Catholic Relief Services, Ken Hackett, to serve as President Barack Obamaʼs new ambassador to the Holy See.
“We are overjoyed that the country will be represented by a man who, through his decades of service, has demonstrated his commitment to the dignity and sanctity of life and fighting global poverty,” said Carolyn Woo, who succeeded Hackett as president and CEO of the U.S. bishops’ international relief organization.
Woo said CRS looks forward “to working with the new ambassador as he engages the Vatican and Pope Francis towards the common goal of advancing peace and justice in the world.”
Obama nominated Hackett on June 14 to serve as the 10th ambassador to the Vatican. The Senate approved him unanimously in an Aug. 1 evening session.
Hackett will be taking over the duties of former ambassador Miguel Diaz, who left the diplomatic post in November 2012 to become the professor of faith and culture at the University of Dayton.
Hackett brings to his new post a lifetime of relief work that started with a 1968-1971 stint with the Peace Corps in Ghana, followed by 40 years of service with CRS.
Hackett is expected to arrive in Rome by late August to take up his post.
In an interview with The Catholic Review, the Baltimore archdiocese’s paper, Hackett reflected on how he will go from representing the Catholic Church in the United States to advocating for the entire country and what the difference will be.
“I thought about that a lot,” he said. Hackett said he believed there are “some powerful connections” between the priorities of the U.S. government and the Church that could “really make a difference” if they are promoted.
One area where he already sees some synergy with the country’s priorities is in Pope Francis’ approach to highlighting the “issues of poverty and injustice and so many social issues.”
During a July 30 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Hackett also listed fighting human trafficking and environmental advocacy as other shared interests.
Hackett told The Catholic Review, “There will be times where the position of the (Obama) administration differs, obviously, from the Holy See, but 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.”