WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Senate Committee for Foreign Relations has begun confirmation hearings for Callista Gingrich as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.
On July 18, the committee met to confirm four appointments by President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as U.S. ambassadors: Callista Gingrich, George Glass, Nathan Sales and Carl Risch. Both Gingrich and Glass are practicing Catholics.
Senator Ron Johnson, a Lutheran, introduced Gingrich and spoke highly of her character.
She is the third wife of former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, is a lifelong Catholic from Wisconsin and was credited by one Sen. Johnny Isakson as being responsible for converting her husband to Catholicism.
She worked in Washington from 1988–2007 both as a congressional staffer for Republican Congressman Steve Gunderson and then as a chief clerk at the House Committee on Agriculture.
After leaving politics she became president of Gingrich Productions, a multimedia organization producing religious and historical documentaries about the United States. She has also been a member of the choir for the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. for 21 years.
In her opening remarks, Gingrich described the Church as a "unique global network ministering to millions [of people] in every corner of the world."
"As global leaders, the United States and the Vatican must work closely to continue to advance our shared values of human dignity and freedom."
She spoke about her experience making two documentary films, Nine Days that Changed the World and Divine Mercy: The Canonization of John Paul II, claiming that in making the films she was able to "Build relationships with many church leaders, clergy and religious scholars." She continues:
These experiences have instilled in me the highest respect for the Holy See, the deep appreciation for the responsibility of this post and the confidence that the United States/Vatican bilateral relationship is a force for good and one that cannot be ignored.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Protestant New Hampshire Democrat, commented, "I know how Pope Francis has called upon America and the Western world to uphold our tradition of moral leadership by welcoming vulnerable refugees fleeing violence and oppression into our country" and asked Gingrich how she plans on working with the Trump administration and the Holy See to deal with the refugee crisis.
Gingrich responded, "We have a deep commitment in this country to work to forward peace and stability so people don't have to become refugees." She adds, "We can communicate our commitment to help those most in need."
Senator Tim Kaine, the dissident Catholic who ran as Hillary Clinton's vice president, noted he was "very happy" with Gingrich's reply about refugees, adding that he is hopeful that she will do everything she can to keep the United States as a "Statue of Liberty nation that welcomes people who are oppressed."
George Edward Glass is another Catholic being considered by the committee as U.S. Ambassador to Portugal and is a member of the Catholic Business Leaders Organization.
Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez asked Glass if he spoke Portuguese, to which Glass answered he did not. Johnson intervened in the questioning, asking Glass, "Talk about your experience on your trip to Portugal that you conveyed to me in my office."
Glass then revealed that three years ago he and his wife, Mary, went on pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. He remarked, "When we got there it truly transformed our lives. It transformed the way we look at each other, it transformed the way we look at our religion and as we traveled throughout the country, we realized the hospitality of the people there was extraordinary."
He further added, "We left a big piece of our hearts there ... and that we wanted to come back."
The session ended with the resolution that senators would have until July 20 to pose additional questions to the potential ambassadors. It was not stated when the vote would take place.