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Diplomacy & the Holy See

Monday, September 15, 2014

6:00 pm EDT - 7:00 pm EDT


Former U.S. Ambassadors to the Holy See, R. James Nicholson and Francis Rooney, discuss the position of the Holy See in the current international order

20140915_HolySeeDiplomacy_VaticanThe Holy See’s relationship with the international community has been the focus of debate this year. Recently, the United States announced that it would relocate the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See. In February, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report chastising the Holy See, alleging that the Holy See has not complied with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In light of these developments, the CIC will host a panel of two former U.S. Ambassadors to the Holy See to discuss the role of the Holy See as a diplomatic institution and its position in the current international order.

20140915_HolySeeDiplomacy_Nicholson_headshotR. James Nicholson

R. James “Jim” Nicholson, Senior Counsel for the law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, is former Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He was sworn into that office in February 2005 and served through September 2007. As Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Nicholson was the principal advocate for veterans in the U.S. government, ensuring that they received the care, support, recognition and dignity they deserve for their service to our country. As VA Secretary, Nicholson also directed the federal government’s second largest Cabinet Department, responsible for a nationwide system of hospitals, health care clinics, benefits programs, and national cemeteries for America’s twenty-five-million veterans. The VA employs over 240,000 people with a budget of approximately 100 billion dollars.

Prior to serving in the Cabinet, Mr. Nicholson served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See from 2001 to 2005. In that position he becamse a well-known advocate in Rome for the elevation of human dignity, giving special emphasis to human trafficking, religious freedom, starvation and bio-tech food, HIV-AIDS, and international terrorism. He was knighted by Pope John Paul II in October 2003 for his work representing the U.S. to the Vatican.

Mr. Nicholson was born in 1938 and grew up on a tenant farm in norwest Iowa in a family of seven children. He is a 1961 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He served eight years on active duty as a paratrooper and Ranger, then 22 years in the Army Reserve, retiring with the rank of colonel. While serving in Vietnam, he earned the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry and two Air Medals.

Mr. Nicholson earned a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York and a law degree from the University of Denver. He practiced law in Denver, specializing in real estate, municipal finance, and zoning law. In 1978 he founded Nicholson Enterprises, Inc., a developer of master planned residential communities, and in 1987 he bought Renaissance Homes, which became an award-winning builder of quality custom homes.

In January 1986, Mr. Nicholson was elected to be the Republican National Committeeman from Colorado. In 1993 he was elected vice-chairman of the RNC, and in January 1997 he was elected chairman of the RNC, where he served for four years, overseeing the elections of 2000, including the election of President George W. Bush.

Mr. Nicholson has been awarded ten honorary doctor degrees, and was named a Distinguished Graduate from his alma mater, West Point, in 2005. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Daniels Fund, the Consortium of Catholic Academics and the Horatio Alger Association. He is a member of the Advisory Board of Capgemini North America and is a Fellow at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He is married to the former Suzanne Marie Ferrell of Highland Falls, New York, who is an accomplished artist. They are the parents of three adult children.


Francis Rooney

Ambassador Francis Rooney is the Chief Executive Officer of Rooney Holdings, Inc. and is Chairman of Manhattan Construction Group, a diversified construction organization based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

From 2005 through 2008, he served as the United States Ambassador to the Holy See, appointed by President George W. Bush.

After government service, Ambassador Rooney rejoined the Board of Advisors of the Panama Canal Authority, Republic of Panama, on which he served previously; is a member of the Board of the Florida Gulf Coast University Foundation and former chairman of the Board of Visitors for the College of International Studies of the University of Oklahoma.

He is a Trustee of The Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, a member of the Council of American Ambassadors, a Director of The Trust for the National Mall and Crossroads GPS, all in Washington, D.C. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for The Forum Club of Southwest Florida, Naples, Florida.

Ambassador Rooney currently serves on several corporate boards – Helmerich & Payne, Inc. (NYSE: HP),  Laredo Petroleum, Inc., (NYSE: LPI), both in Tulsa, Oklahoma; VETRA Energy Group, Bogota, Colombia; and Mercantil Commercebank, Coral Gables, Florida.

Ambassador Rooney is a graduate of Georgetown University (A.B. 1975) and Georgetown University Law Center (J.D. 1978), and has honorary degrees from the University of Notre Dame (2006) and the University of Dallas (2010).  He is a member of the District of Columbia and Texas Bars, and holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100 Ton Masters License (Sailing Endorsement).   He and his wife, Kathleen, live predominately in Naples, Florida, and the Rooney’s have three children, Larry, who is married to Porscha,  Michael and Kathleen, and one grandson, Beckett.

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