Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2015
US embassy in Rom

US embassy in Rome

February 28, 1867: The US breaks off diplomatic relations with the Holy See. The Papal States and the US began consular relations under President George Washington and Pope Pius VI in 1797. Anti-Catholic feelings increased after Lincoln’s assassination. Mary Surratt, a Catholic, was convicted and hanged as a conspirator. She owned a boarding house where plots had been conceived to kidnap Lincoln. It was at her house where Dr. Mudd introduced her son to John Wilkes Booth. Although the kidnapping failed, the plot to kill Lincoln was eventually successful. Mary’s religion was another strike against the woman. Her son was given sanctuary in a Roman Catholic Church after he was accused as being an accessory. He fled to Italy and was made a Papal Zouave, part of the infantry whose mission is to defend Rome and the Papal States.

There had been other allegations of the Pope forbidding Protestant religious services held at the home of the American Minister in Rome, something that had taken place weekly. Legislations was passed under Ulysses S Grant which prevented any funding to US diplomatic missions to Rome. There were several times when US Presidents designated personal envoys to visit the Holy See in order to discuss international humanitarian and/or political issues. The first of these took place in 1933 when Postmaster General James Farley was sent overseas. He shared the ocean voyage with Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs maxim Litvinoff and they sailed on the Italian liner SS Conte Di Savoia. Farley met with Pope Pius XI and had dinner with Cardinal Pacelli (who became Pope in 1939).

Myron Charles Taylor served under Franklin D Roosevelt and Harry S Truman from 1939 to 1950. On October 20, 1951, Truman appointed General Mark W Clark to the US emissary to the Holy See but Senator Tom Connally (D-Texas) and Protestant groups complained, causing Clark to withdraw his nomination on January 13, 1952. Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan all appointed personal envoys to the Pope. Official prohibition lasted until the Lugar Act repealed it on September 22, 1983 and relations were re-established formally on January 10, 1984.

The post was then raised to Ambassador and William A Wilson was the first of these and confirmed on March 7, 1984. Wilson had been Reagan’s personal envoy since 1981. The Holy See named Archbishop Pio Laghi as the first Apostolic Nuncio (equivalent to an ambassador). He had been Pope John Paul II’s apostolic delegate to the Catholic Church in the US since 1980. Today, Ken Hackett is the Ambassador at the US Embassy in the Villa Domiziana in Rome. Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano is the diplomat in Washington, D.C. President Obama and Pope Benedict XVI met in 2009 and the President also met Pope Francis in 2014 while in Rome.

When people ask where I studied to be an ambassador, I say my neighborhood and my school. I’ve tried to tell my kids that you don’t wait until you’re in high school or college to start dealing with problems of people being different. The younger you start, the better. – Andrew Young

An ambassador is not simply an agent; he is also a spectacle. – Walter Bagehot

I have always viewed my role as a sort of ambassador or bridge between groups to help provide a dialog. – Joichi Ito

An ambassador is an honest man sent abroad to lie and intrigue for the benefit of his country. – Henry Wotton

Also on this day: Dord – In 1939, the unknown word DORD was found in Webster’s Dictionary.
B&O Railroad – In 1827, a law was passed to form the B&O Railroad.
Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen – In 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H was televised.
Betrayal – In 1844, an explosion aboard the USS Princeton shocked the nation.
228  – In 1947, a massacre took place in Taiwan.

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