The new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See officially began his term on Monday with an audience with Pope Francis.
Ambassador Joe Donnelly presented his credentials to the pope at the Vatican’s apostolic palace on April 11.
“I look forward to deepening our ties with the Holy See. My family and I are proud to be members of the Catholic faith,” Donnelly said in a video message published by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.
“From my childhood, through my college and law school years at the University of Notre Dame, through years of public service in Indiana and Washington, D.C., the Catholic Church has been a core part of my life and my values.”
He follows Callista Gingrich, who served as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See from December 2017 to January 2021 under President Donald Trump. Since Biden’s inauguration, Patrick Connell has been serving as chargé d’affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.
“I have been profoundly moved by the power of the Church to improve the lives of people all around the globe,” Donnelly said in his video message.
“As U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, I will do all I can to ensure that the United States and the Vatican work together to advance human rights and dignity.”
— U.S. in Holy See (@USinHolySee) April 9, 2022
Donnelly served in the U.S. Senate from 2013 to 2019. He represented Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District from 2007 to 2013, during which time he voted against funding embryonic stem cell research and was a strong foe of abortion funding in the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
He was one of the last House Democratic holdouts who abandoned their opposition and voted for the bill on its final passage in 2010, as President Barack Obama promised the bill would not fund abortion.
In the Senate, he reversed his position against federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions.
Donnelly has recently been a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld law firm in Washington, D.C. He has served as chairman of the board at the New York-based Soufan Center, a non-profit think tank whose work on global security and foreign policy focuses on counter-terrorism, violent extremism, and armed conflict.
While in Congress, Donnelly was known as a pro-labor, pro-life moderate Democrat, who changed his position on marriage. In 2013, he announced his support for redefining marriage, saying it was “the right thing to do,” Politico reported.
Pro-life groups were split on Donnelly in his failed 2018 re-election campaign. Democrats for Life of America supported his re-election, citing his support for some pro-life policies over the years, including restrictions on abortions after 20 weeks and banning taxpayer-funded abortion.
Donnelly is joined in Rome by his wife, Jill, and said that he looked forward to having his two children and his new grandchild visit frequently.
“The United States and the Holy See have a very special relationship,” Donnelly said.
“Together, we work hard to be a force for good in the world, defending human rights and religious freedom, combating trafficking in persons, caring for the environment, and advancing peace, security, and the rights of children, seniors, women, and all of our brothers and sisters everywhere.”