U.S. Ambassador to Holy See Joe Donnelly will step down

May 30, 2024 2 Min Read
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The United States’ ambassador to the Holy See — former Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly from Indiana — is reportedly stepping down from his post to return to his home a few miles northeast of South Bend.

Donnelly, who is Catholic, intends to leave his position on July 8 and move back to his home in Granger, according to Politico. He was appointed by President Joe Biden and confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote and has served as ambassador since April 11, 2022.

“It’s been an amazing privilege to serve the country and the president,” Donnelly said in a text message, according to Politico.

It’s unclear who the president plans to nominate to replace Donnelly.

Donnelly, who was raised in the Catholic Church and received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Notre Dame, said upon assuming his role as ambassador that “my family and I are proud to be members of the Catholic faith.” He added that “the Catholic Church has been a core part of my life and my values.”

As ambassador, Donnelly worked with the Holy See on a variety of foreign policy priorities for the United States, which included dialogue with the Vatican about the wars in Ukraine and in Gaza. Less than a month after becoming ambassador, Donnelly met with Ukrainian families who sought refuge in Italy.

On May 5, Donnelly met with a mother who had given birth to her child in a bomb shelter in Ukraine before coming to Italy. He said after the meeting that this is “the situation that the Russians created by attacking Ukraine.”

“Think about bringing a newborn child first, bringing a newborn child into this world, in a bomb shelter underneath a hospital, then a one-month bus ride to a country where you have never been before,” Donnelly said at the time. “And you are at Sant’Egidio now, to try to have the opportunity to have a place to sleep, to be able to make sure that your child is safe and that you can have something to eat.”

In a May 2023 interview with EWTN — about one year after becoming the ambassador — Donnelly said that religious freedom, particularly in China, was another issue on which he was focused.

“It is actually core to our work,” Donnelly said. “We’ve had a number of representatives from our government come over here to talk to the Vatican about various religious freedom subjects. One in particular met with the Vatican on the situation for the Uyghurs, where they’re in concentration camps in China because of their religious beliefs.”

Donnelly’s departure from his role as ambassador comes as the Holy See and the United States continue to work on joint priorities, such as humanitarian support for civilians in Ukraine and Gaza amid the ongoing wars.

As a lawmaker, Donnelly had a mixed record on Catholic issues such as abortion. Earlier in his career, he voted to defund Planned Parenthood but later voted in favor of funds. He was one of only a few Democrats who supported a proposed law that would have restricted abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

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