The likely candidates for the job of Trump's ambassador to the Holy See12 January 2017 | by Christopher Lamb
The job requires someone suitably heavyweight, who understands the priorities of both Trump and the Pope
Given the public disagreements between Pope Francis and US President-elect Donald Trump over issues ranging from the building of a wall on the Mexican border to climate change and migration, it is not surprising that the question of who will be Trump’s ambassador to the Holy See is causing intense interest.
The job description requires someone suitably heavyweight, who understands the priorities of both Donald Trump and the Pope. A tall order indeed, but who might Trump appoint? Here is a list of possible candidates:
Newt Gingrich: A prominent Trump supporter who loves spending time in Rome, he would be a high-profile nomination who is close to the president. Raised a Southern Baptist, Gingrich became a Catholic in 2009 after witnessing Benedict XVI celebrate vespers in the crypt chapel of the Washington basilica. His wife, Callista is a lifelong Catholic and a member of the basilica’s choir. As a former Speaker of the House of Representatives and 2012 presidential candidate, Gingrich is the man to beat.
Chris Christie: The Governor of New Jersey has been pushed out of Trump’s inner circle, reportedly because of his involvement in the 2005 prosecution of Charles Kushner, father of Jared, who is now the president elect’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Kushner was sentenced to prison on 18 counts of tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign donations, and Jared is suspected of score-settling. But Christie’s support of Trump after himself dropping out of the Republican primaries means he could get a job that takes him out of the country. Christie was born into a Catholic family, sends his children to Catholic schools but has diverted from the Church line on contraception and homosexuality. A charismatic figure who would make his mark in Rome.
William E. Simon Jr: His friend Rudolph Giuliani, a Trump ally and former New York mayor, has suggested him as a candidate for the Holy See job. Bill, as he is known, is a businessman and politician who unsuccessfully tried to become the Governor of California. A serious Catholic, he is a Knight of Malta who set up an initiative to rejuvenate parish life in the United States.
Joseph Forgione: Passed over as secretary of housing and development, the property developer reportedly has support to get the Vatican posting. His chances are bolstered by his friendship with the Kushner family and the fact he raised money for Trump’s campaign. Rome will not be a foreign place as his parents emigrated from Italy and he holds dual citizenship.
Joe Ricketts: A billionaire Catholic who planned to donate at least one million dollars to Trump’s election campaign. The 75-year-old, who runs the world’s biggest online brokerages, would have some common ground with the Jesuit Pope: his faith was transformed by an Ignatian retreat. He later donated money to a centre offering the Spiritual Exercises of Jesuit founder St Ignatius.
Peggy Noonan: Former speech writer to Ronald Reagan and Wall Street Journal columnist, the practising Catholic is a New Yorker like Trump and was critical of his campaign to become president. After his election victory, however, she has become more positive. Noonan knows the Church well and describes her faith as the “core of her identity”.
Given the unpredictability of the new president it’s also worth considering some wild cards. These might include: George Weigel, the writer and biographer of St John Paul II.
Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News anchor, and possibly Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Governor of California and a Catholic.
Whatever happens, Trump looks set to make an appointment sooner rather than later having ordered serving ambassadors to leave their posts by 20 January, the date he takes the oath of office.
Photo - Chris Christie
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