diaz-and-pope-1A few days after he presented his credentials to Pope Benedict as new U.S. ambassador to the United States, Miguel Humberto Diaz, invited a few journalists to his residence on Rome’s Gianicolo Hill for a chat. It was his first meeting with the media in his new role and I was the only member of a major international news organisation to be invited to the first round.

Diaz, a very amiable man, is the first Hispanic and the first theologian to fill the post of U.S. ambassador. He took questions in English and Italian on a range of topics but most of the comments were centered on what he wanted to make out of the post. Here are some excerpts. The questions have been synthesized to reflect the conversation: (Photos: Ambassador Diaz and Pope Benedict, October 2, 2009. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)

How did you get the news that President Obama had chosen you as new envoy and how did you feel?

“When the call came in from the White House I was, like anybody would be, pleasantly surprised and honored and humbled to have this opportunity to serve my country, to serve under this president. I had been part of an advisory team of Catholic theologians and activists during the campaign.

“One of my desires for this president was that this kind of engagement between religious ideas, public service, people of faith and service to one’s country could continue beyond the campaign. I was of the opinion that of religious thinkers could continue to participate in some kind of ongoing advisory group. When I first received the call i thought  that the president was going to ask me to do …  instead I was very honored that the president had selected me to become the next ambassador to the Holy See”