Former Vatican Ambassador Melady Passes

Tuesday, 07 Jan 2014 01:08 PM

By John Gizzi

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The news this morning that Thomas P. Melady died was nothing short of devastating to the wide circle of friends he had accumulated in his eventful 86 years.

To them, the former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, president of Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, author of 16 books, and lay Roman Catholic leader was just "Tom," a true friend who was always available to talk to.

"Ambassador Melady — Tom to his friends, who included Popes, cardinals, presidents of the United States, and his students — was a true gentleman," recalled Owen Smith, chairman of the board of trustees of the Institute of World Politics, where Melady served as senior diplomat in residence until his death. "He made time for everyone. He was there for his friends when they needed him. At the Institute for World Politics he made himself available to our students, whether they need help in their career planning, a term paper, or their own lives.

"And at 86, he never thought of retirement."

Editor’s Note: Do You Approve of Pope Francis? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

A U.S. Army veteran, Tom Melady graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and Catholic University in Washington, D.C. In seeking research for his master's degree, the young Connecticut resident received assistance from the office of his state's Republican U.S. senator, Prescott Bush. They began a friendship that would lead to Melady later becoming friends with the senator's son, George H.W. Bush.

After stints as a professor at St. John's University and Fordham University in New York, and as president of the Africa Service Institute, Melady was named ambassador to Burundi by President Nixon in 1969. Following an assignment as senior adviser to the U.N. General Assembly, Melady was tapped in 1972 to be ambassador to Uganda.

This was no easy task, given that his arrival at the embassy coincided with the rise to power of the grisly Idi Amin, whose violent presidency of Uganda from 1971 to 1979 culminated in a death toll estimated at around 300,000.

"I knew Amin well — several friends of mine were killed at his order," Melady recalled to this reporter, noting that the strongman purged the Ugandan army of at least 5,000 officers considered close to his rival, former President Milton Obote. Obote was a close friend of Melady.

Upon returning to the United States in 1976, Melady took on the presidency of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. For the next 12 years, he would build up the university's enrollment and stature by visiting high schools in all 169 towns in Connecticut.

Following service as assistant U.S. secretary of education for post-secondary education, Melady was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1989 to be ambassador to the Holy See. He was a natural for the position, having known then-Pope John Paul II ever since he was Bishop Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, and his close associate Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, since he was a priest and educator.

"Tom understood the unique strategic importance of the Holy See as a moral force in politics," John Lenczowski, founder and president of the Institute of World Politics and a close associate of Melady, told Newsmax, "The materialists in Russia — and in our own foreign policy culture — never understood the dimension of this. An advocacy of human rights was key to helping people tell the truth, reclaim their dignity, and finally bring down the Soviet Empire. The Vatican did. So did Tom."

Declassified documents show that Ambassador Melady's first instructions were to help influence the Vatican to recognize Israel, which it finally did in 1993.

At a time when most of his contemporaries were preparing for retirement, Tom Melady was still going full speed ahead. His continued writing on foreign policy and Roman Catholic-related issues, worked at the IWP, and also took on an assignment as dean of Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. Overall, he wrote 16 books on topics ranging from Africa to Bosnia, and more than 181 articles.

And he was a devoted husband to his wife Margaret, also a lay Catholic leader and author, and a warm and loving father to their two children.

As his legions of friends prepared to mourn him, many were recalling him as "a man for all seasons," as well as just "Tom."

Editor’s Note: Do You Approve of Pope Francis? Vote Now in Urgent Poll


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