Catholic commentator George Weigel has written an “open letter” to Dr. Miguel Diaz, President Obama’s nominated ambassador to the Holy See, advising him to focus on common agreement between the Vatican and the United States in his “difficult task.”
Writing in his weekly column, Weigel suggested Diaz, a theology professor at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, cultivate intellectual contacts during his diplomatic work. According to
Weigel—who is biographer of the late Pope John Paul II—previous Ambassadors Jim Nicholson and Mary Ann Glendon were “particularly successful” in fostering reflection upon human rights law, development and religious freedom.
He also suggested the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum are now the centers for Diaz to find real intellectual energy at the Vatican.
Citing Benjamin Franklin’s rejection of involvement in Catholic bishop appointments in the U.S., Weigel advised Diaz to avoid “entanglement” in the “internal affairs” of the Catholic Church in the United States, especially concerning episcopal appointments.
Weigel then described what he believed to be the normal duties of an ambassador: meeting with ethnic groups, trade associations, and advocacy groups interested in the country to which he is assigned.
Being “an advocate” for “specific policies of the administration you represent” is not part of this mission, Weigel remarked, warning that if the Obama administration uses Diaz as a “partisan surrogate” with Catholic audiences in the U.S. the action would be “very poorly received” by the Holy See.
Weigel advised Diaz to focus on areas of agreement, a “difficult task” when the Obama administration and the Holy See are at “cross-purposes” on several “core” issues such as the right to life.
On more practical matters, Weigel exhorted Diaz to resist U.S. State Department efforts to relocate the Embassy to the Vatican to the grounds of the Embassy to Italy.
“The Holy See deeply (and rightly) resents such cheese-paring, especially from major powers. Defend your turf, and keep your post independent of Embassy-Italy,” he wrote. “You can be their friend; don’t be their tenant.”
He also recommended the Lenten “station church” pilgrimage led by the North American College, saying it was a “great way” both to learn the city and to learn to pray.