Vatican City, Jan 10, 2018 / 16:00 pm America/Denver (CNA).
On Jan. 10, Callista Gingrich, the United States Ambassador to the Holy See, was a guest at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. She visited the college to receive a blessing as she embarks upon her work as ambassador, according to sources at the North American College.
News of the event is striking for two reasons.
The first reason is that her visit, and her request for a blessing, stresses the important connection between the work of the North American College as a pastoral center (it is the home to more than 200 U.S. seminarians living and studying in Rome) and the embassy which looks after the diplomatic interests of Americans in relationship with the Holy See.
Given that it is something of an unspoken tradition that the ambassador be a Catholic, the gesture of a new ambassador seeking a private blessing upon her endeavors is both paradoxical and encouraging; a symbol of the role religion can play in public life, informing and affirming public servants without contradicting their work on behalf of the secular state.
The second reason the event is significant is that it demonstrates that a pastoral welcome transcends partisan disagreement. It is all too easy for public servants to be tarred with the broad brush of the government they serve. In the case of President Trump’s administration, there have been a number of issues on which church authorities have voiced clear notes of caution and disagreement. But disagreements between the Trump administration and the US bishops have not severed the pastoral relationships essential to the Church’s mission.
It would be easy to use the occasion of an ambassador’s visit to the North American College as an opportunity to emphasize disagreement or partisan rancor. That Ambassador Gingrich was welcomed as a daughter of the Church shows the sort of personal pastoral attention which Pope Francis has placed at the heart of his papacy, and the maturity to rise above the secular partisan fray. This sort of pastoral maturity benefits everyone involved.