U.S. Embassy to Vatican inaugurates its new building

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ROME - Inaugurating the new chancery of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See less than two weeks before Pope Francis was scheduled to make his first-ever visit to the United States, officials from both sides highlighted their commitment to working together for the common good.

The meticulously renovated building is located on the same campus as the U.S. embassies to Italy and to U.N. agencies in Rome, which initially led some people to ask if it meant the U.S. government was downgrading its mission to the Vatican.

"Our relationship and cooperation with the Holy See are as strong as ever," Ken Hackett, the U.S. ambassador, told Vatican and U.S. State Department officials during the inauguration ceremony Sept. 9.

"In fact," he said, "our collaboration is increasing on a range of global issues - not the least of which is the U.S. rapprochement with Cuba and the key role Vatican officials played there. We continue to work together to promote human rights and dignity, whether through combating human trafficking, protecting our environment, or protecting international religious freedom."

"We look forward to a continued strong partnership in the years ahead," the ambassador said, "and of course, a very successful visit of Pope Francis to the United States."

Toasting the U.S. embassy staff in a formal, frescoed hall, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, said, "It is particularly significant that this inauguration should take place on the vigil of the Holy Father's visit to the United States. Understandably, we have great expectations for that visit, as we do for the work which will be accomplished in and from this magnificent embassy.

"The American people have made a most significant investment, not just in bricks and mortar, but a moral and spiritual investment in its commitment to ongoing and flourishing relations with the Holy See," the archbishop said. "I am confident that what we are witnessing today is more than symbolic, but represents a sincere engagement on both our parts to work together 'under God' for the good of humanity, and for which we recognize our shared responsibility within the community of nations."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015