U.S. Ambassador's Address to Benedict XVI

"An Essential Element of Strong Friendship Is Ongoing Conversation"

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 29, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Mary Ann Glendon, the new ambassador of the United States to the Holy See, gave today upon presenting her credentials to Benedict XVI.

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Your Holiness,

It is a distinct honor and pleasure to present to you my credentials as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Holy See. I extend warm greetings from President George W. Bush and the American people. I am grateful to President Bush for the opportunity to represent him and my country to the Holy See.

Your Holiness, in your message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace this year, you wrote “We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters.” The United States of America believes that strong alliances, friendships and international institutions enable us to advance along that path through shared efforts to promote freedom, prosperity, and peace. We recognize a privileged place in such a partnership for the Holy See whose strong moral voice resonates in the hearts of men and women throughout the world.

An essential element of strong friendship is ongoing conversation -- a dialogue -- based on mutual respect, understanding and trust. This is particularly true for people of faith. The United States, in its desire to be a partner in interfaith dialogue, is working to amplify the many voices speaking out against the misuse of religion to promote terrorist violence and to support the efforts of those who are striving for greater interfaith understanding. We are encouraging conversations among cultures. In a new program called “Citizen Dialogue,” we have sent Muslim American citizens across the world to engage with citizens in Muslim communities. We have sponsored summer programs for young people, teaching respect for diversity. The U.S. understands that we are part of an increasingly interconnected world that calls on each of us -- no matter what our culture or faith -- to work for peace, life, and hope.

Your Holiness, this year marks the sixtieth anniversary of two important international documents that were the fruits of collaboration among persons of many different faiths and cultures -- the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. These documents emerged from the darkness and horror of the Second World War. They stand today as beacons for the inalienable dignity and rights of the human person. They also stand as testimony to the progress that can be made through reason and good will even in troubled times. Today, both the United States and the Holy See actively promote the principles contained in those documents. It is my heartfelt desire that we will work together to commemorate the anniversary of both the Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention in a fitting manner.

The United States and the Holy See have collaborated in recent years on many projects to protect and enhance the dignity of the person. The United States is particularly proud of its initiatives to tackle trafficking in human beings. U.S. funded programs have provided anti-trafficking training and support to hundreds of women religious in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. Similar programs for the clergy and male religious will be offered this year. We are confident that these combined efforts will eventually result in the elimination of trafficking in men, women and children.

Your Holiness, poverty, hunger and disease continue to plague too many regions of our world. For the United States, these are not only humanitarian issues but concerns that affect regional stability and security. We are striving, therefore, to provide impoverished nations with the economic and social tools that will empower them to seize hold of their own destiny. The United States is leading the struggle against global poverty with strong education initiatives and with humanitarian assistance programs like our new Millennium Challenge Account which are geared toward strengthening democracy, transparency, and the rule of law in developing nations. The United States is also in the forefront of efforts to combat global hunger. Today, more than half the world's food aid comes from the United States. In his State of the Union address, President Bush referred to an innovative proposal to provide food assistance by purchasing crops directly from farmers in the developing world, in order to build up local agriculture and help break the cycle of famine. The United States is also confronting the infectious diseases that are taking such a toll in developing nations. We are working to cut the number of malaria-related deaths in 15 African nations. Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the United States is treating 1.4 million people. We can and will bring healing and hope to many more.

Your Holiness, the United States is an instrument of hope in the world because its people are compassionate and generous. That is why we are eager to work in partnership with the Holy See to enhance the lives of all the world’s people, but in particular, those who are caught up in the despair that comes from poverty, hunger and disease. Your Holiness, in your encyclical "Spe Salvi," you reminded us that “our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone.” It is our commitment to this essential human solidarity that inspires the compassionate actions of the United States in and for the human family.

We are particularly pleased that Your Holiness will visit the United States this coming spring. On your first visit to the U.S. as pontiff, you will find a warm welcome from a nation that understands the important contribution offered by people of faith in our society. You will be among friends. The seven pastoral visits made by your predecessor, Pope John Paul II, were opportunities for a conversation on the important issues of the day. We look forward to a similar dialogue during your own visit as you offer your message of hope and peace.

Your Holiness, in the 24 years of the formal diplomatic relationship between the United States and the Holy See, we have recognized in each other a solid and valuable partner dedicated to making the people of our world safer and more hopeful. As I take up my position as the eighth U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, I want to reaffirm the invaluable nature of that relationship in the quest for freedom, justice, peace and human dignity throughout the world.

Thank you, Your Holiness.