News Headlines > Francis and Trump can put aside their differences and work together, former US ambassador tells The Tablet

19 May 2017 | by Christopher Lamb

Francis and Trump can put aside their differences and work together, former US ambassador tells The Tablet

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Callista Gingrich will be a good appointment to the Vatican, says Republican congressman Francis Rooney

Saluted by swiss guards, ushered through room after room filled with stunning renaissance frescoes and then, finally, offered a seat in front of the Pope.  

Even for the most seasoned political leaders, the experience of a papal audience can be a humbling experience. It will be no different for President Donald Trump who today set off on his first foreign trip abroad which will include an audience with Pope Francis inside the Vatican’s apostolic palace next Wednesday.  

The Holy See’s highly ritualised protocol for state visits is unlike any other in modern diplomacy. It is not, however, tradition for the sake of it: there is a clear purpose behind the process.

Showing world leaders "state rooms" that were built centuries ago with paintings that show battles with armies commanded by popes emphasises just how long the papacy has been involved in global affairs. The history and the cultural grandeur, tells those meeting the Pope that the Church isn’t concerned just with the here and now, but in the long term; and in the global rather than national interest. This is a diplomacy that has one eye on the kingdoms of earth but another on the one in heaven.

So what can we expect when the Pope meets Trump? One person with inside knowledge of both the president and the Vatican position is Congressman Francis Rooney, who was the United States’ Ambassador to the Holy See under George W Bush.

A Trump supporter and recently elected as the Republican representative in southern Florida, the congressman admits there are fundamental disagreements between Francis and Trump, such as climate change. Agreement on this issue, the former ambassador stresses, is unlikely while he is critical of the Holy See for aligning itself with positions held by the Obama administration and international organisations such as the United Nations.  

But Rooney also believes that the President and Francis can put aside their differences and work together on solving problems in Latin America, protecting religious freedoms and defending the cause of human dignity worldwide.

Rooney receives communion from Fr Kevin O'Brien at the Jesuit Dahlgren Chapel in Washington


In a wide-ranging interview, Rooney also suggested that Callista Gingrich, currently rumoured to be the next US Ambassador to the Holy See, will be ideal for the role: “I think she’ll be very good as one of the most important aspects of being an Ambassador to the Holy See is to have direct access to leaders back home,” Rooney said.

“She has that with the Trump administration which is partly through her husband, Newt Gingrich [former speaker and supporter of President Trump’s campaign]. That will help her. The Holy See posting is different from secular missions which have big institutional drivers and strong relationships are extremely important.”

You can see the full interview as part of our premium content - Full Q&A interview with Republican Congressman Francis Rooney

PICTURE - Rooney sets up his desk after being elected to Congress in January with a quote from Ronald Reagan: 'There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit'

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