Thursday, October 01, 2009

The State of the Union... According to Rome

Tomorrow morning, B16 will receive the credentials of Miguel Diaz, the newly-arrived US ambassador to the Holy See. In the process, keeping with long-standing Vatican custom, the pontiff will deliver a welcome address offering his assessment of things American, areas of commendation and concern alike.

Named to the posting by President Obama in May and unanimously confirmed by the Senate in early August, the 45 year-old theologian is the first Hispanic to lead Washington's Vatican mission since its informal founding in 1939. Due to persistent anti-Catholic prejudice on these shores (and a century-old Federal law banning official US-HS relations), full diplomatic ties weren't established until January 1984, a milestone celebrated earlier this year at a capital symposium hours after Diaz's nomination was announced.

Diaz will be the third US ambassador received by Benedict since his election; the pontiff previously welcomed two appointees of former President George W. Bush -- Oklahoma's Francis Rooney in late 2005 and Massachusetts' Mary Ann Glendon in early 2008. The new ambassador arrives nearly three months after Obama and Benedict had their "cordial" first encounter (video), its late afternoon scheduling widely read as a signal of the Pope's eagerness to meet the 44th President.