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Callista Gingrich becomes Trump's envoy to pope as differences mount

FILE PHOTO: Callista Gingrich takes her seat for a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to discuss in part her nomination as President Donald Trump's pick to be U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. July 18, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

(reuters_tickers)

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Callista Gingrich, wife of the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, on Friday became U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, which is at odds with Washington over immigration, climate change and Jerusalem.

Callista Gingrich, 51, an author, documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide, presented her credentials to Pope Francis at the Vatican to officially assume her role.

Her husband Newt Gingrich was an early supporter and vocal ally of U.S. President Donald Trump. Newt Gingrich is expected to continue his role as a political contributor to Fox News from his new base in Rome.

Trump's nomination of Callista Gingrich to the post at the Holy See in May caused some controversy because of her marriage to Gingrich, with whom she became involved when he was still married to his second wife. Both are Roman Catholic.

On Thursday they attended the funeral at the Vatican of Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned as Archbishop of Boston 15 years ago after covering up years of sexual abuse of children by priests.

The pope has implicitly criticised Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris accord on climate change.

He said last month that denying climate change or being indifferent to its effects were "perverse attitudes" that blocked research and dialogue aimed at protecting the future of the planet.

Francis is also opposed to Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The pontiff has called for respect for the city's "status quo," saying new tension in the Middle East would further inflame world conflicts..

On Thursday at the United Nations, where the Vatican has permanent observer status, more than 120 countries defied Trump and voted in favour of a resolution calling for the United States to drop its recent recognition.

The U.S. embassy said in a statement that the new ambassador "looks forward to working with the Holy See to defend human rights, advance religious freedom, combat human trafficking, and to seek peaceful solutions to crises around the world".

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; editing by Andrew Roche)

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