President Donald Trump has announced his intention to nominate Callista Gingrich, wife of former House speaker and Trump ally Newt Gingrich, as his ambassador to the Vatican. Though widely rumored, a White House press release on Friday made the move official.
Since 2007, Callista Gingrich has been the President and CEO of Gingrich Productions, which produces historical and public policy documentary videos, often with religious themes. She’s the author of a children’s series called “Ellis the Elephant,” as well as co-author of a book called “Rediscovering God in America.”
Gingrich served as a congressional aide in the U.S. House of Representatives, and as Chief Clerk of the House Committee on Agriculture.
Gingrich also serves as President of The Gingrich Foundation, which supports charitable causes. She’s sung for two decades with the Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Born in Whitehall, Wisconsin, in 1966, Gingrich earned a BA cum laude from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.
Assuming Gingrich is confirmed by the Senate, she will continue an unbroken tradition of presidents naming Catholics as their envoy to the Vatican since the opening of full diplomatic relations under President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
A lifelong Catholic, Gingrich is said to have been instrumental in 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.
Congressman Francis Rooney, who served as Ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush during his second term, told Crux he sees Gingrich’s nomination as a positive signal.
“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. “People in the State Department are not exactly friends of the Holy See mission, in many respects.
“The fact that Newt [Gingrich] is so close to Trump bodes well,” Rooney said.
“Newt Gingrich was with Trump all through the campaign,” Rooney said. “When he came down here [Florida], I introduced him and he introduced Trump. He traveled with him, and I think he’s even writing a book about Trump. That’s the kind of access that can really be important.”
Friday’s White House statement was merely one of intent. Trump still has to formally submit Gingrich’s name for consideration by the Senate, and there’s no indication as yet of how long it may take the Senate to schedule hearings and then a vote to confirm the nomination.
If confirmed, she would succeed Ambassador Ken Hackett, who retired in January. Gingrich would be the third woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See after Lindy Boggs, who held the post in 1997-2001, and Mary Ann Glendon, who served in 2008-2009.
The statement on Gingrich comes just days before Trump is scheduled to meet Pope Francis in the Vatican on Wednesday, May 24, and may be timed to assure the Vatican that Trump intends to take the relationship seriously.