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 CNS Story:

ROONEY Oct-24-2013 (680 words) With photo and book cover. xxxn

Promoting peace, human dignity among pillars of Holy See, says Rooney

By Priya Narapareddy
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The pillars of the Holy See include promoting peace, human dignity and respect for human rights around the world, said former Ambassador Francis Rooney.

Rooney, who served as the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See from 2005 to 2008, said he wrote his book "The Global Vatican" to contribute toward a public understanding of the Holy See's role in world diplomacy, as he said at an Oct. 17 luncheon hosted by David Abshire and the Washington-based Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.

Rooney is a trustee of the center, and Abshire is its vice chairman and counselor.

The former ambassador described the Holy See as an international entity that works to exercise moral power against systems that threaten world peace.

"It's the authority, power and influence of the church to do good in the world," Rooney told Catholic News Service in an interview.

Ambassadors to the Holy See work to globally leverage this moral authority and to ensure the natural rights of man. The Holy See's diplomatic corps includes ambassadors representing 179 nations.

About 30 of these diplomats, according to Rooney, are followers of Islam.

"It's not just about (human rights for) Catholics," Rooney said.

Rooney said many ambassadors represent nations that are not predominantly Catholic. He said the mission of the U.S. foreign policy aligns with the objective of the Holy See's diplomacy.

"The U.S.'s foreign policy is focused on spreading freedom in the world," Rooney said. "That's the cornerstone of the Holy See's diplomacy."

Rooney said moral values are the basis for a just society.

"In the U.S., there is a unique collaboration between freedom and religion," he said. "I think the First Amendment is the reason for that."

Rooney said the Holy See seeks to build cultural bridges with the nations of the world and is focused on help for the poor and social justice.

"Being free from politics, the Holy See has a unique ability to do things without seeking credibility, which makes them even more effective," said Rooney.

Pope Francis, of Argentina, who is the first Latin American pope, brings a "New World candor and openness" to papal leadership, he told CNS.

The former ambassador said reasonable living conditions are necessary to sustain freedom, democracy and tolerance within a nation's government. He addressed the need for strong civil institutions to assure that governments better serve the people of Latin American countries.

Latin America, a predominantly Catholic part of the world, could benefit from a "new evangelization" inspired by Pope Francis, Rooney said.

"This new evangelization in society, broader than in religion itself, might allow democracy to really flourish," he said.

Rooney said many are unfamiliar with the Holy See's diplomacy because it does not publicize its efforts.

The late William A. Wilson, the first U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, was appointed in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan. Wilson was named the president's personal envoy to the Vatican in 1981. Three years later, when Congress repealed an 1867 law prohibiting full diplomatic relations with the Holy See, Wilson's position was elevated to that of ambassador. He served in the post until May 1986, when he resigned to return to private life. He died in 2009 at age 95.

Rooney was appointed in 2005 by President George W. Bush, who made a record six trips to the Holy See.

On Oct. 21, Pope Francis received the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Ken Hackett, former head of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency. By presenting his credentials to the pope, Hackett officially took over the post, which had been vacant a year. He was nominated by President Barack Obama June 14 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate Aug. 5.

"The great thing for me is that I had the honor of representing the president of the United States as a diplomat," said Rooney, CEO of Rooney Holdings.

His most memorable occasions as ambassador included meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.

"Each of those special moments with the Holy Father were exceptional," he said.

END


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