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In recent weeks, two of the three U.S. Ambassadors present in Rome arrived to take up their new posts. (David Lane, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Agencies in Rome, has been on post for about 18 months).
U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Ken Hackett and his wife Joan arrived on 19 September to take up residence at Villa Richardson. Ambassador Hackett may be a Boston College grad originally, but in 2007 he was awarded a Doctorate of Human Letters, honoris causa, by the University of Notre Dame, for his extensive work on behalf of the world’s neediest, in his 40 years at Catholic Relief Services (the U.S. affiliate of Caritas Internationalis). In 2012, he was awarded the U.S. Catholic Church’s highest honor, the Laetare Medal.
He succeeds Ambassador Miguel Díaz, who earned a Ph.D. in Theology from Notre Dame in 2000 (the same commencement ceremony as your humble scribe, but for the BA). His wife, Dr. Marian Díaz, was ND class of 1991.
U.S. Ambassador to the Italian Republic and the Republic of San Marino, John R. Phillips, earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame in 1966, before going on to Law School. He and his wife Linda arrived just a week earlier, to take residence at Villa Taverna. Third-generation Italian-American, Ambassador Phillips has made fifty visits to Italy in the last decade alone! It is probably a good thing he gets a chance to settle in for a while.
Needless to say, the Notre Dame Club of Italy is thrilled to welcome both to its membership!
On October 12, 2010, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and the Pontifical Gregorian University sponsored a conference entitled “Building Bridges of Hope: Success Stories and Strategies for Interfaith Action.” The purpose of the conference was to discuss how people of different faiths could work together to address global problems. Nine panelists from different faiths spoke on the topics of environmental protection, equitable development, and conflict resolution, sharing their religion’s perspective on their panel theme plus concrete examples of interreligious cooperation in that field. The White House sent a keynote speaker, Dr. Joshua DuBois, to the event to emphasize the U.S. Government’s senior-level support for the initiative.
[Taken from the conferences wikisite, which includes full transcripts of presentations: http://bridgebuilders.wikispaces.com/]
The Environment, Ethical Development, and Conflict Prevention were the three panel themes of the conference, each addressed by three panellists from each of the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Not all were academics. Business and NGO leaders, clergy and politicians were among the presenters, providing for an even greater variety of approaches to the questions of interfaith dialogue and action.
Take a few minutes to peruse the conference on the link above!
The Drs. Diaz and family were back at the Lay Centre this evening. This time, the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, his wife (and fellow theologian) Marian, and two of their boys brought over a Cajun-themed dinner to help celebrate a culture night focusing on Lousiana. Apparently, culture and movie nights were a fairly common activity at Villa Richardson under Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, and the Diaz family is looking to continue the custom at least occasionally in partnership with the Lay Centre (which Ambassador Diaz called the family’s second home in Rome this evening!).
The public affairs officer in the Embassy is J. Nathan Bland, a Lousiana native who shared a presentation about the people, faith, culture and cuisine of his home state. We were doubly honored by the presence of Nathan’s mother who was visiting Rome for the first time! Nathan shared his experience growing up as an African-American Catholic, a double minority in northern Louisiana, and his journey of discovery of black Catholic history and experience. The Ambassador then shared thoughts on his experience working with Latino and African-American Catholic theology.
The evening was capped with a viewing of Disney’s Princess and the Frog, notable as the first Disney feature film whose protagonist is an African-American, and is set in New Orleans.
I do not know the last time I have seen a room of 40 grown adults watching a Disney movie, but it was a sight to see! The food was good, too!