Cathy and I had the pleasure of meeting with Ambassador Fischer and his deputy Anne Giles during Holy Week in Rome. Tim is a real gentleman, and instantly puts you at ease. There is a lot of criticism of the cost (reportedly $3 million per annum) – a criticism that probably comes from underestimating the importance of the Holy See as a “soft power” (as Tim himself puts it in the interview). And there is another aspect to his mission in Europe – attention to Australia’s interests in regard to food security takes up a fair amount of his time, I understand.
Of course, from my point of view, one of his most important priorities is interfaith dialogue, and he certainly was a great help to us in this regard on our recent Joint Catholic Muslim Pilgrimage to Istanbul and Rome. While in Rome, he hosted our party at his residence, and invited a large number of curial and diplomatic staff from the Holy to meet with us, making sure that our intitiative did not go unnoticed on the ground.