By Christopher White
The Tablet National Correspondent
Callista Gingrich has been confirmed as the United States ambassador to the Holy See. The vote was 70-23 in the U.S. Senate on Monday.
She is the third wife of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The former House speaker is one of President Trump’s most vocal Catholic allies.
Callista Gingrich was born in Whitehall, Wisc., in 1966 and graduated cum laude from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.
She served as a congressional aide in the U.S. House of Representatives, and as Chief Clerk of the House Committee on Agriculture. She’s been a member of the Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., for the past two decades.
As a lifelong Catholic, Gingrich was instrumental to her husband’s conversion to the faith in 2009.
The two were married in 2000, and two years later Newt Gingrich petitioned the Archdiocese of Atlanta to annul his previous marriage on the grounds that his former wife, Marianne, had herself been previously married.
In the lead-up to Gingrich’s confirmation, there has been much speculation as to how the Trump administration will relate to the Vatican. Pope Francis has made the cause of refugees and immigrants, along with care for the environment, a centerpiece to his papacy – which are areas of obvious disagreement with the president.
In her Senate confirmation hearing in July, Gingrich was grilled on many of these differences and tried to downplay the tensions.
“The pope and the president share a great concern about our environment,” she said. “If confirmed, I look forward to working with Holy See as the United States pursues a balanced approach to climate policy.”
When asked about disagreements over migrants, Gingrich said, “We have a deep commitment in this country to work to forward peace and stability so people don’t have to become refugees.”
The administration is likely to pursue areas of overlapping agreement with the Vatican, such as pro-life issues, religious liberty, and concern for persecuted Christians – all of which Trump and Francis discussed in their first meeting together in Rome last May.
Last May, Congressman Francis Rooney, who served as Ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush during his second term, said he sees Gingrich’s nomination as a positive signal and believes the relationship between Newt and the president as beneficial.
“I take it as a good sign,” Rooney said.
“The Holy See mission doesn’t have business and consular activities and things like that, and to be powerful and influential it needs a strong relationship directly with the White House,” he said.
“The fact that Newt is so close to Trump bodes well,” Rooney added.
In an interview with Politico in August, the former speaker attempted to downplay his role, saying that his wife had supported his career and now it was time to support her in her new post.
“I’ll be the person at the front door saying, ‘Hi, I’m Newt Gingrich. The ambassador will be down shortly,’” he said. “It’s a great new role. Callista supported me in ’12 when I ran for president; I get to support her now. And I get to join the spouse organization.”
The former speaker will remain a contributor to Fox News but now plans to relocate to Rome with his wife and will travel back to the United States as needed.
Gingrich will succeed Ambassador Ken Hackett, who retired in January. She will be the third woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See after Lindy Boggs, who held the post, 1997-2001, and Mary Ann Glendon, who served 2008-2009.