VATICAN CITY (RNS) The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel H. Diaz, paid his farewell visit to Pope Benedict XVI on Monday (Nov. 5) ahead of his return to the U.S., where he will resume his academic career as a theologian.
The move comes at the end of Diaz's term as Washington's top diplomat to the Vatican and was officially confirmed on Wednesday (Nov. 7).
According to an embassy statement, “Ambassador Diaz was proud to serve almost three and a half years in his position as the 9th U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.” He had been sworn in on Aug. 21, 2009.
Back in the U.S., he will take the position of Professor of Faith and Culture at the University of Dayton at the University of Dayton in Ohio, a Catholic college.
“Miguel Díaz finds common ground in discourses that too often divide. He has been an influential Catholic leader in areas as far ranging as human trafficking to inter-religious dialogue,” said Daniel J. Curran, president of the University of Dayton, in a statement.
Diaz was a theologian at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn., and Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minn., before being chosen to represent the Obama administration at the Vatican.
Born in Havana, Cuba, he was the first Hispanic U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. He is also a board member of the Catholic Theological Society of America and former president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States.
Despite the conflict between U.S. Catholic bishops and the Obama administration over a new mandate for employers to provide birth control coverage to their employees, Diaz steered clear of controversies during his tenure, focusing instead on themes such as interfaith dialogue, HIV prevention and the fight against human trafficking.
“As Ambassador, I have had the pleasure of representing the people of the United States to the Holy See, and to develop our already strong cooperation,” Ambassador Diaz said upon announcing his departure.
Last fall, Diaz helped launch the Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group, part of a State Department initiative aimed at facilitating engagement with communities of faith.
Until the appointment of a new ambassador, the U.S. embassy to the Holy See will be headed by the Deputy Chief of Mission, Mario Mesquita.