In his first interview since taking his place in the Vatican City as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel Umberto Diaz spoke with Italy's Christian Family magazine for an article titled "Vatican and USA - Together for Peace." The ambassador also reflected on how he believes that President Obama's foreign policy is characterized by audacity and hope.
Ambassador Diaz was appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See last August by President Barack Obama and his credentials were later accepted by Pope Benedict XVI.
According to his Department of State biography, at the time he was chosen to be the U.S. diplomat to the Holy See, he was on the theology faculties of the
College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn. and Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.
He obtained his master's and doctorate degrees in theology from the University of Notre Dame, where he later taught as a professor.
Dr. Diaz is a board member of the Catholic Theological Society of America, past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States and participates in the speaker's bureau "Voices for the Common Good."
Asked by Christian Family what sort of image the Holy Father has in the U.S., the ambassador said that a "large part of American people see in the Pope a moral guide for the whole world and the leader of an institution engaged in humanitarian aid and conflict resolution."
For these reasons, he added, the U.S. Government wishes continue deepening relations with the Holy See.
He went on to list commitment against hunger in the world, human rights, religious freedom, global health, fighting against human trafficking, and working for peace and security as major areas in which the U.S. and the Vatican see eye-to-eye and are collaborating.
"This is a vision fully shared by Obama," Diaz added. "I also believe that together with the Holy See we can face the great challenge of the 21st century: that of diversity, determined by migrations and demographic changes."
"The diversity of peoples, races, cultures and religions shouldn't scare us if we are able to confront them positively and constructively."
The positive contribution of the U.S., he explained, can be seen in its history of unity through diversity. Dr. Diaz himself was born in Havana, Cuba and moved to Florida with his parents when he was a youth.
Responding to a question on what the Church can contribute, he answered, "The strength of the Church is in its being Catholic, so, universal, and neutral. It represents a moral voice for the entire world."
Ambassador Diaz said that the U.S. sees relations with the Holy See as expanding beyond the Vatican City's walls to missionaries, volunteers, schools and hospitals. "This presence of the Church represents an incredible potential that has a positive impact on the entire human family, also (those who are) non-Christian,” he told Christian Family.
The ambassador also fielded a question about the U.S. relations with the Muslim world, for which he said that "we need to show mutual comprehension and friendship, we must reject the use of religion for violent purposes, protect the common good and embrace the differences constructively."
He answered positively that this is being achieved at the moment, using the example of the withdraw of American troops from Iraq. "Realistically it's a difficult job," he said, "there are obstacles, but we cannot do it overnight, you need so much patience and trust. We need to practice the foreign politics of listening, theorized by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."
However, Ambassador Diaz did not mention any of the anti-life decisions made by President Obama, including the rescinding of the Mexico City policy, the lifting of President Bush's restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and his efforts to promote a homosexual agenda.
Diaz acknowledged last year's awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize as "a recognition of Obama's efforts to face the great challenges of the century constructively," pointing out that the president does so through a leadership style that "knows how to listen to and involve other protagonists from the international scene."
He brought up Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope," saying, "I think that both the former and the latter (words) are guiding him in his actions."
Asked if by following Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Caritas in veritate one could avoid the financial and economic crises of the world, Diaz responded, "The Encyclical speaks to today's world.”
"The Pope asks for transparency, responsibility, a less selfish distribution of resources, greater interdependence in cooperation between the nations of the world. These are all principles embraced by President Obama. Let's remember that his motto is 'Yes we can' not 'Yes I can.'"
"Barack Obama's is a call to common responsibility," Diaz said.