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Name: Hackett, Ken
Current Position: Ambassador

The next U.S. ambassador to Vatican City—the theocratic micro-state with a population of 800 and an area of 110 acres—will be a longtime international aid executive whose focus on the poor should fit in well with the announced priorities of newly-installed Pope Francis. Ken Hackett, president of Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services (CRS), was nominated by President Barack Obama on June 14. If confirmed by the Senate, he would succeed Miguel Diaz, who served from 2009 to late 2012.


Born circa 1947 in West Roxbury, Mass., Hackett earned a B.S. in Business Administration at Boston College in 1968. Although Hackett says his main interests at college were “lacrosse and women,” at the urging of a lacrosse teammate he signed up for the Peace Corps in his senior year, thinking it would be “an interesting thing to do.” Assigned to rural Ghana, he worked in an agricultural cooperative and saw “the actual impact of American food aid on the health and well-being of very poor kids in a very isolated part of a West African country,” which fueled his intent to spend his career on international aid and development work.


After finishing with the Peace Corps, Hackett joined CRS in 1972. Commencing his career in Sierra Leone, Hackett managed a nationwide leprosy program and a maternal and child health program. Later postings took him to Africa and Asia, as well as to CRS headquarters in Baltimore. As regional director for Africa, he managed the agency’s response to the Ethiopian famine of 1984-1985, and supervised CRS operations in East Africa during the crisis in Somalia in the 1990s.


Hackett was named executive director of CRS in July 1993, and was appointed president in 2003. During his tenure, he started a division focusing on outreach to Catholic dioceses, parishes, organizations, and colleges, and laypeople were first appointed to the CRS board of directors. The organization’s budget—which despite the word “Catholic” comes not from the Church but from governments and private donors—nearly doubled under Hackett, who retired in December 2011.


Hackett has served as North America president of Caritas Internationalis, a Catholic Church relief ornaaization, and has served on the boards of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum (1996 to 2011); the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration; the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy; and the Africa Society. He is also a member of Legatus, an organization of Catholic business leaders. From 2004 to 2009, Hackett was on the board of directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation.


Hackett lives in Columbia, Maryland. He and his wife, Joan, have two children.

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Ken Hackett, Former CRS President, Nominated as U.S. Ambassador to Vatican (Catholic News Service)

Charitable Intent (by Jane Whitehead, Boston College Magazine)

Ken Hackett To Be Nominated As Ambassador To Vatican (by Jaweed Kaleem, Huffington Post)

Obama Taps Former CRS Head as New Vatican Envoy (by John L. Allen, Jr., National Catholic Reporter)

Catholic Relief Services has Benefited from Hackett’s Hand (by Paul McMullen, Catholic Review)

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