Good afternoon. I’m pleased to be here today to launch our Embassy’s photo exhibit for the 30th anniversary of U.S.-Holy See relations. I would like to thank President Pavoncello for his partnership with us on this event, and for hosting our exhibit so the students at John Cabot can learn more about the history of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Holy See.
Thirty years ago, on January 10, 1984, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II agreed to the establishment of formal diplomatic relations. The United States established an embassy to the Holy See on April 9, 1984, when William A. Wilson presented his credentials to Pope John Paul II, elevating his position from Personal Representative of the President to U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.
But in fact the United States has engaged with the Vatican at various levels since the very beginning of our republic.
In an historic moment on January 4, 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson met with Pope Benedict XV while Wilson was on a tour of Europe following World War I. This was the first meeting between a U.S. president and a pope, and it highlighted a key common global interest in our bilateral relationship – the promotion of peace and human rights. On December 6, 1959, President Dwight Eisenhower met with Pope John XXIII, and since then every sitting American president has met with the pope. And Pope John Paul II became the first pope to visit the White House in October 1979 when he visited President Jimmy Carter.
The more modern history of our relations with the Holy See is told in the photo exhibit we are launching here today. It is a story of engagement and cooperation over the last century on a wide range of important global issues.
Today, the United States and the Holy See continue our partnership on such critical issues as trafficking in persons, interreligious dialogue, conflict resolution, development, and environmental protection. A desire to promote human rights and social justice is at the foundation of this relationship.
And the importance of the relationship was underscored recently by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the Vatican in January when he met with the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Archbishop Parolin, in a very positive and comprehensive meeting. And we look forward as well to President Obama’s visit to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis on March 27.
We hope you enjoy the photo exhibit and we thank you for joining us in celebrating both our 30th anniversary as an embassy and the rich history between the United States and the Holy See.