The Catholic University of America

Sept. 16, 2011

Vatican Ambassador Urges Students to “Walk with Others”

  Miguel Diaz
  U. S. Ambassador to the Holy See Miguel Díaz speaks as part of the Hispanic Civic Engagement Series.

Miguel Díaz, the first Hispanic to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, urged students at The Catholic University of America to “walk with others” as a way to promote diversity.

During his Sept. 13 talk titled “Building Bridges: Latino Identity, Religion, and the Pursuit of the Common Good,” Díaz said, society must “creatively craft unity out of diversity … Fear of ‘others’ and ‘otherness’ has characterized our times.” There are “endless possibilities to cross human borders” and that is what is so badly needed, he added.

He pointed to a well-known Spanish proverb: “Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres.” Translated, Díaz said this means “tell me with whom you walk and I will tell you who you are. We must walk with others.”

A noted theologian and former college professor, the Cuban-born Díaz became ambassador in 2009. His talk at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center was part of the University’s Hispanic Civic Engagement Series. He also helped to launch a month-long series of events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which started Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 15.

Miguel Diaz and John Garvey  
Ambassador Díaz and President Garvey share a laugh with students.  

In welcoming Díaz to Catholic University, Mario Ortiz, CUA’s director of Latin American and Latino Studies, noted that “the growing presence of Latinos is transforming the United States and the Catholic Church. As a natural consequence of that, it is transforming The Catholic University of America.”

University President John Garvey said, “At Catholic University, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month because we recognize the contribution that Hispanic culture makes to our life here,” said Garvey, who mentioned the intellectual contributions of the Latin American culture.

In his talk, Díaz said he is “one hundred percent convinced that nationally and internationally there is a tremendous need to build bridges.”

“There is no greater challenge facing the human family than constructively addressing issues surrounding human diversity,” he said.

Referring to the long-held vision of America as a great melting pot, Díaz said America should be a place where “differences are welcomed rather than melted away. We are all part of a rich tapestry of differences.” Those differences can be woven together for the common good, he said. “We must avoid interpreting unity as sameness.”

  CUA students Alexandra Vereau, Sarah Funes, and Michelle Romero.

Díaz said the Spanish word for “we,” “nosotros,” has profound meaning for Hispanic Americans. He defined it as “‘others’ as an essential component of the communal we.”

Hispanics are essential to the tapestry of the United States. Hispanics account for one in six U.S. residents, one in five school children, one in four babies, and one in three Catholics, said Díaz. But the Hispanic population is not monolithic, he added.

Some identify as Hispanic, others as Latino. Some identify with the country of origin, calling themselves “Mexican Americans” or “Cuban Americans,” for instance. Some have a long history in the United States, while others are new to the country. “I strongly believe there is a treasure trove in the U.S. Hispanic population for advancing the common good,” he said.

As he concluded his formal presentation, Díaz walked among the audience, responding to questions. One student asked, “What is the Church’s role in building bridges?”

“It is enormous,” said Díaz. “To be Catholic is to be inclusive, to be universal, to welcome diversity and distinction. The Church promotes the unity of the human family. The Church recognizes distinct contributions for the benefit of the whole. The human family comes together at the Vatican. We walk with others.”

At the end of the ambassador’s presentation, Sarah Funes, a junior nursing major from Laytonsville, Md., said “I loved that he reinforced everything I believe in. I am proud to be Hispanic and proud that I can share that at Catholic University.”

“It is amazing to see a Hispanic American representing us at the Vatican. Catholicism unites us all even if we have cultural differences. We all come together through our belief in God,” said Michelle Romero, co-chair of the CUA Latin Alliance and a senior from Boston with a double major in Spanish and French.

Catholic University kicked off its celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month with the Culture Picnic, which was held Sept. 15 at the Pryzbyla Center. A University-wide celebration, the Hispanic Heritage Month programming is coordinated by Ryan-Allen McKinney, associate director of campus activities. For a list of all Hispanic Heritage Month events, visit

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