Until recently, the 70-year-old Italian was the second person in charge at the Governatorate of the Vatican City. That body is in charge of many of the City State’s departments such as its police service, observatory, museums, post office and tourist information service.
In his new post, Archbishop Viganò succeeds Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who died this past July.
One of his key tasks will be to report back to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State on the latest developments in the U.S. presidential race, and in particular, on matters “regarding protecting moral values and the values of life, the protection of life.”
Archbishop Viganò says he is heartened by recent moves in certain U.S. states to further protect unborn children. He calls those initiatives “an important sign for the entire world” and a “real hope for Europe.” It’s la moda (the fashion), he says as he explains his hope for Europe, adding, it “usually follows in the steps of the United States.”
Last week, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Religious Freedom, Bishop William E. Lori, warned in testimony before Congress that religious freedom in America is being threatened by several actions taken by the Obama administration. As an example, he cited the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ requirement that nearly all private health insurance plans cover sterilization and contraception, including some that cause early abortion.
Archbishop Viganò says he is still getting up to speed on the issue but has been “deeply surprised” to learn of these developments.
“I know that all the ideals of the American dream are really founded in freedom and the first value is the freedom of conscience – you never have to go against what your conscience is dictating to you.”
He gives the example of a doctor being obliged to perform medical procedures against his or her conscience, describing such a suggestion as “nonsense” that is “not solely against Christianity - it is against humanity.”
Interestingly, one thing that excites him about his new position is the reputation of the U.S. as a leader in science and technology. “Science has a great appeal to me, a great interest,” he explains. He is particularly interested in the dialogue between faith and science and believes that science can lead people to God.
Ahead of his departure for the States, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See hosted a reception on Nov. 3 to wish Archbishop Viganò well in his new appointment.