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Flynn flap focuses on job's substance, style.

BOSTON -- Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn, ambassador-designate to the Vatican, has rung concessions from the State Department to expand his scope of authority and budget.

The unprecedented public flap over diplomatic duties followed Flynn's announcement that he would not take the job if it meant sitting quietly in Rome.

"I'm not going if it's not going to be a meaningful position representing the president of the United States and the people on the issues of social and economic justice," Flynn said June 6 as he voiced his reservations about the ambassadorship.

Following the June 8 announcement that Flynn would accept the nomination, Vatican sources indicated puzzlement with his publicly expressed ideas about the ambassadorship. Flynn has envisaged traveling with the pope on foreign trips and becoming a kind of global ambassador for human rights, while Vatican sources described the post as prestigious, but limited and said Flynn should not expect a high-profile, public role with lots of traveling.

"Of course, (Flynn) is welcome here, and it seems that his interests coincide with ours. The problem is, what exactly does he want to do?" one Vatican official told Catholic News Service. "There's some confusion whether his plans involve his job as ambassador or personal projects."

Vatican sources, who requested anonymity, said naming a "protagonist" or activist ambassador would be a new twist in the realm of Vatican diplomacy. They don't dispute that the job is in part ceremonial. However, they said most of the ambassador's time is typically spent on cultivating contacts, sending reports back to Washington and presenting positions or papers to an array of Vatican offices.

It is clear that Flynn is not intent on such a behind-the-scenes role. According to published statements, Flynn felt the $19,000 annual travel and expense budget would hamper his ambitious diplomatic agenda. Unlike many independently wealthy ambassadors, Flynn, with six children, says he "lives paycheck to paycheck" on his $100,000 mayor's salary, and can't afford to personally subsidize the embassy.

However, an informed Vatican source said flying off to world trouble spots is not the job of the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. "This is actually a prestigious post, and a post in which he could wield a certain amount of influence if he were discreet about it. But it's not the influence that is headline-making--you don't win votes in the Vatican by hitting the headlines," another Vatican source told CNS.

Unlike former Vatican ambassadors, Flynn enjoys the media spotlight and uses his high-profile platform to expound on issues of racial and economic justice.

Since his nomination in March, Flynn has been negotiating with State Department officials over the scope and budget of the embassy. Flynn met briefly with Clinton June 8, and the president reportedly assured him of an expanded role.

Flynn's nomination, announced St. Patrick's Day in front of his childhood parish in Irish-Catholic South Boston, was viewed as payback for a political ally shut out of Clinton's cabinet. The Boston mayor had lobbied Clinton to become secretary of either Labor or Housing and Urban Development.

In Flynn's case, Clinton may have underestimated the energy and enthusiasm that the Boston mayor would bring to what has been a quiet diplomatic position. If he were to bring his political style to Rome, Flynn might create a one-man State Department that would frequently grab global headlines.

By publicly pressuring the White House and State Department to broaden his responsibilities and increase his budget, Flynn has angered some officials who viewed the mayor's move as a publicity stunt. Said one State Department official, "It's a travesty. This is like extortion."

While no specific assurances were given to Flynn, Secretary of State Warren Christopher said, "The president and the department often need a special emissary to promote America's humanitarian goals, and we know Mayor Flynn would be able to deliver the message forcefully and persuasively."

The appointment of Flynn, who has no experience in foreign affairs and has spent his entire life in Boston's provincial political world, was seen as a brilliant move back in March.

In a recent statement, White House communications director Mark Gearan said that Clinton has the highest confidence that Flynn "will be a powerful and persuasive proponent of America's commitment to human rights and human dignity."

Flynn said recently that he expects his Senate confirmation hearings to take place soon, and he hopes the issue would "be behind us" by the time Clinton makes his scheduled visit to Boston June 19.
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Title Annotation:U.S. Ambassador-designate to the Vatican Raymond L. Flynn
Author:McManus, James
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Biography
Date:Jun 18, 1993
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