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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Former religious ambassador visits Texas A&M

Photo by Kevin Chow

As owner of the Manhattan Construction group, Francis Rooney has helped build Texas A&M structures such as the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the newly renovated Kyle Field. However, at a live speaking event Thursday at the    Annenberg Presidential Conference Center, Rooney said his greatest project was serving under George W. Bush’s administration as the American Ambassador to the Holy See, the universal government of the Catholic Church.  
“I’ve been involved in International Business my entire life — some in the Middle East and Latin America,”  Rooney said. “I had done some things diplomatically for President George W. Bush up until his second term, so during the second term he asked me to [be an ambassador], and I was honored and thankful to be able to serve in his administration.”
Rooney was invited to speak on campus by St. Mary’s Catholic Center Father David Konderla. The two met through a mutual friend and Pope John Paul II biographer, George Weigel.
“What I had hoped for the audience, which I hoped would be diverse, was that they would get is a better understanding of the Holy See and that the leadership for the Catholic Church is a force for good among nations and not just a religious organization that preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith,” Konderla said.
During his three-year stay in Rome, Rooney said he was able to meet many different diplomats as well as educate the world on America’s beliefs.
“I was charged to spread understanding and appreciation for American values, which meant to speak up,” Rooney said. “I remember telling one group one time that it is very dangerous for your national identity to have big groups of people who do not assimilate into your culture — that is our melting pot. People come [to America], and they became Americans.”
In his speech, Rooney detailed the history of popes and their involvement in world affairs such as World War I, The Gulf War and even the recent issues in the Middle East. His book, “The Global Vatican” as well as his speech said the Church has the ability to influence thanks to soft power that has remained over hundreds of years. Similar to Rooney, Konderla said the Church is not irrelevant with the times.
“There is a secularism that would want to assert itself against religion and to say that we don’t need religion, but just as [Rooney] was pointing out, in many points in history, nations and rulers — often tyrants have tried to eliminate religion, but it has not been for the good of the people,” Konderla said.
Elizabeth Kellen, a civil engineering sophomore who attended the event, said she was surprised to learn how far the power of the Church was spread.
“The soft power that [Rooney] talked about today exactly depicted the influence the Church has on the world, and I think while they are very subtle and modest in their powers, they definitely do have an impact and definitely help move for change and positive influence,” Kellen said.
Konderla said he hopes the talk was a way to educate and spread their shared faith.
“I would hope what would happen tonight in listening to ambassador Rooney and more so reading his excellent book, it will broaden understanding that, ‘Wow the Catholic Church affects good in the world in many ways than just celebrating the sacraments and reading the scriptures,” Konderla said.

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