Though neither of us realized it at the time, new U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Miguel Diaz and I met on a propitious day for Diaz’s boss, President Barack Obama. A little over two hours after our interview ended, news broke that Obama had been awarded the Noble Peace Prize. One of the first global institutions to issue its congratulations was the Vatican, which expressed “appreciation” for the choice and encouraged what it described as Obama’s commitment to “peace in the international arena,” especially nuclear disarmament.
tAll in all, not a bad day for Obama’s man at the Vatican.
tDiaz is the first Hispanic to serve as ambassador to the Holy See, as well as the first professional theologian. (He’s currently on extended sabbatical as a professor of theology at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Minnesota.) Born in Cuba, Diaz and his family left when he was eight, eventually settling in Miami. He has working-class roots; his father was a waiter and his mother a seamstress. Diaz and his wife Marian have four school-aged children.
Despite today’s developments, in many ways Diaz has his work cut out for him. Not only does he have to learn the argot and customs of international diplomacy on the fly, but he represents a president who can seem an ambivalent figure seen through the Vatican’s prism: congenial on many matters of foreign policy, but problematic on abortion, contraception, and other life issues. Of course, Diaz also knows that Obama is an even more controversial figure in some circles of Catholic opinion in the States.