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 CNS Story:

WENSKI-PILGRIMS Jun-28-2010 (490 words) xxxi

Ambassador, archbishop speak of importance of US-Vatican ties

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- They came as pilgrims, but the 250 Miami Catholics must have felt a little like VIPs the day after landing in Rome.

Miguel H. Diaz, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, hosted the group, led by Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, at a garden party at his residence June 27. Diaz warmed them up with a pep talk about the importance of U.S.-Vatican relations.

The ambassador planned to greet similar groups from Cincinnati and Milwaukee June 28, but as Archbishop Wenski said, "he wanted to show a little favoritism to us from Florida." In fact, Cuban-born Diaz spent many years in southern Florida, as a student and later as a professor at a Catholic seminary and a Catholic university. He still has family in the Miami area.

Archbishop Wenski's line about favoritism drew laughter and applause from the Florida pilgrims, who came to Rome for Pope Benedict XVI's June 29 Mass to bestow palliums, a woolen band symbolizing pastoral ministry, upon 38 archbishops.

At the reception, the ambassador and the archbishop both spoke about the significance of strong U.S.-Vatican ties, but with somewhat different points of emphasis.

Recalling President Barack Obama's meeting last year with Pope Benedict, Diaz said that "while such a brief formal occasion doesn't allow for a deep relationship to develop, it is clear that the pope and the president share key values and philosophies as well as their Christian faith."

"Together they seek to make this a better world -- to foster peace, to promote justice and freedom, to feed the hungry, to heal the sick and to bring a message of life and hope to those desperate to hear it, as well as those who refuse to hear it," the ambassador said.

Diaz said the United States appreciates the immense value of faith-based organizations and their ability to "translate compassionate intent into practice," both domestically and in the international arena.

Archbishop Wenski said the Miami Archdiocese has a special vocation to welcome immigrants, especially from the Caribbean and Latin America. In that sense, he said, Miami has become "America's modern Ellis Island."

"The church in Miami and South Florida was always there for the newcomers. It was there for the Cubans right after the revolution in 1959 in Cuba. And it has been there now for the Haitians who have fled the earthquake and have come to South Florida for medical treatment. So Miami represents hope for so many people," he said.

The archbishop recalled Pope Benedict's praise of the healthy church-state relationship during his visit to the United States in 2008. But the pope also challenged the United States, he said, warning about a modern secularist trend toward "living as if God did not matter."

"As Catholics and Christians, our witness is to show to the world by the way we live how joyful life can be when we live convinced that God indeed does matter," he said.


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