Late Friday afternoon, President Barack Obama announced a number of ambassador nominees, including Ken Hackett, retired Catholic Relief Services president, as the 10th U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.
The post has been vacant since Miguel Diaz resigned it in November 2012.
From President Obama:
"It gives me great confidence that such dedicated and capable individuals have agreed to join this administration to serve the American people. I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come."
Hackett has a strong history of humanitarian efforts and is very well respected within the Church. (You can read about his background at Catholic News Service.) Early responses to his nomination seem positive:
"I cannot think of a better choice. He will represent President Barack Obama and the administration's interests to the Holy See and bring the concerns and hopes of the Holy See to the president. He knows the Church and is trusted and respected by all.
"Ken Hackett is a loyal American and a man of deep faith and commitment to the Catholic Church. He knows what it means to serve in his long career with Catholic Relief Services through which he served the poor around the world with distinction. I saw firsthand the many gifts he will bring now to his service of the United States," said Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, Chairman of the Board of Directors of CRS.
"Ken Hackett has responded to a Gospel imperative with his entire career. His direction of the Catholic Church's outreach to the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and unsheltered of the world has blended administrative acumen with genuine compassion in a unique and exemplary way," said Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, University of Notre Dame's president.
"[Hackett] has so many skills applicable to this job. He has traveled all over the world and worked with [Vatican representatives], bishops and general consuls in all those places, and he has dealt successfully with plenty of sticky situations," said Bishop Denis J. Madden, Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore, a former Catholic Relief Services board member.
"His nomination gives a signal of President Obama's openness to good relations with the Church," said a U.S. Catholic leader close to Hackett.
With all the stresses and threats to religious freedom that the Catholic Church faces in the U.S. today, hopefully this nomination is a step in the right direction. How do you see Hackett's nomination affecting the U.S. government's relationship with the Church?
Jennifer Rey is the web editor of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.