Embassy Vatican under the spell of embassy Rome.

Author:Creagan, James F.

It seems that there are well-developed Department of State plans, "for Security Reasons", to relocate the US Embassy to the Holy See from its location overlooking Rome's Circus Maximus to the Via Veneto area in an annex of the US Embassy to Italy--perhaps even to the "Mel Sembler" building, named for George W. Bush's Ambassador to Italy. The Holy See has a long standing policy calling for the representative of country "X "to the Holy See to be other than the Ambassador or diplomat accredited to Italy. The separate status ensures that the diplomatic focus is on issues and relationships of importance to the Holy See as sovereign entity, not overtly influenced by the physical location of Vatican City in Rome. The Holy See must have its doubts about the apparent transfer of the US Chancery to the Holy See across town to the US Chancery to Italy. It may publically minimize expressions of concern, especially since the reason given by the US for the transfer seems to be security for its diplomats in the wake of Benghazi. Former US Ambassadors to the Holy See, however, do express their deep concerns. They know that the reality will be a reduction in the importance of Embassy, Vatican with its mission and its influence at a very time when religions impact foreign policy in a way that ideologies once did. As one recent Ambassador put it, relocation will be a "massive downgrade" and turn the US diplomatic representation to the Holy See into a "stepchild of the embassy to Italy". He may be right. There is a history here. I remember it.

The relocation of the US Embassy to the Holy See to the grounds of the US Embassy to Italy is significant both symbolically and physically. Physical location and "presence" is important. A move to the Via Veneto site brings the US representation to the Holy See back to its old locus. In the 1970's, I served in the political section of the US Embassy. One of our political officers was responsible for the ongoing relationship with the Vatican and for reporting on the Vatican. From time to time, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., President Nixon's personal representative to the Holy See, would come over to Rome. Offices would be set up in the Grand Hotel, where he stayed. There would be a several week flurry of activity.

The Vatican was important for our relationship with Italy, not least because the Pope, always an Italian, with his mostly Italian Curia had enormous influence over the political direction of Italy in a time of Cold...

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