On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I extend heartfelt congratulations to His Holiness Pope Francis on the one-year anniversary of his historic election to the See of Rome.
I had the privilege two months ago to be the first Catholic Secretary of State to visit the Vatican since the United States established diplomatic relations with the Holy See three decades ago. As a former altar boy, I never imagined that I would one day cross the threshold of the Vatican as Secretary of State.
My first and formative sense of religion came from my parents, Richard and Rosemary. My parents taught me early that we are all put on this earth for something greater than ourselves. They taught me my faith and they taught me to live by it.
Millions of Americans share this devotion to a higher purpose and a commitment to help others. The relationship between the United States and the Holy See is built on that common foundation. The Holy Father’s emphasis on addressing poverty has brought much needed global attention to helping the neediest among us.
The values that unite us are many and include promoting human rights and religious freedom, protecting the environment, and fighting trafficking in persons and the exploitation of faith as a pretext for violence.
I am particularly appreciative of the Holy Father’s appeals for peace in the Middle East and support of Israeli–Palestinian negotiations.
Today, I join millions of Americans in offering congratulations to the Holy Father as he continues his work of leading the Catholic Church in our modern world.