Can ambassadors make a difference in the world around them? That was the theme of The Lay Centre’s community evening April 19. In a conversation after dinner, Chiara Porro, Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, and her husband, Rien Schuurhuis, spoke about her work and the need for building bridges between Church and society.
Being part of a broader network of countries that have diplomatic relations with the Holy See is what makes this post unique, the ambassador noted. Currently, 85 countries maintain embassies to the Holy See. Besides the direct dialogue between two parties, the Vatican is a privileged place to obtain information about other parts of the world where Australia does not have a strong diplomatic presence, such as parts of Africa and the Middle East.
Ambassador Porro, who has been in Rome for three years, recalled the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and the Holy See. The milestones include three papal visits to Australia, among them a visit for World Youth Day in 2008. That same year, Australia officially opened an embassy in Rome to the Holy See.
As the only ambassador to the Holy See from the Pacific region, she said she feels responsible for being, as much as possible, a representative voice for all the region. She said religion is still of great importance to society and that other countries in the Pacific are not as secularized as Australia.
She highlighted the importance of taking religion seriously in foreign policy – something she has learned more about over the years working in Rome – and has been sharing that view with other Australian diplomats.
Earlier in the evening, The Lay Centre community gathered to celebrate Mass, presided over by Father Joseph L. Farrell, OSA, vicar general of the Order of St. Augustine.
Contributed: Filip Veber