Callista Gingrich grilled on Pope-Trump differences on climate policy

Callista Gingrich, wife of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich waves to the crowd during the third day of the Republican National Convention on July 20, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Story highlights

  • Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is a devout Catholic
  • She was asked about climate change at the hearing

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump's pick for US ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, was pressed by members of the Senate foreign relations committee in a hearing Tuesday on how she would work with the Vatican on refugee and climate change issues, two areas where the Pope and the President's views diverge.

Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, a Democrat, noted that Pope Francis has written an encyclical about climate change and the environment, and asked Gingrich how she would work with the Vatican on climate change issues.
"The Pope and the President share a great concern about our environment," Gingrich said. "President Trump wants to maintain that we have clean air and clean water and that the United States remains an environmental leader. As President Trump said, we will disengage and pull out of the Paris agreement, and either re-enter the Paris agreement or an entirely new agreement -- one that is fair to Americans. If confirmed, I look forward to working with Holy See as the United States pursues a balanced approach to climate policy."
    Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is a devout Catholic. She attends mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington, where she has sung in the choir for two decades. She has produced several documentaries on religion in her role as President of Gingrich Productions -- a multimedia company that promotes her and her husband's work.
    "I appreciate your confidence in that," Udall said. "I must say I must have missed a few of the President's statements that have given you that faith. I wish it were so. I'm not persuaded, but perhaps we'll see more unfold in that regard."
    Trump announced last month that the US will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, which he claimed placed "draconian" financial burdens on the American people.
    Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, noted that Pope Francis has called on the US to welcome refugees, and asked how Gingrich would defend the President's positions on refugees at the Holy See.
    "We have a deep commitment in this country to work to forward peace and stability so people don't have to become refugees," Gingrich said. "The United States has been -- and will continue to be -- the largest provider of humanitarian aid in the world. We aren't disengaging ... I think we can communicate (to the Vatican) our commitment to those most in need."
    CNN reported last week that the Trump administration has reached its self-imposed quota of 50,000 refugees for 2017, though refugees with a "bona fide" connection to the United States are still being vetted in accordance with a recent Supreme Court's decision related to Trump's travel ban.
    Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, introducing Gingrich, said her "understanding of the Catholic Church" makes her an "ideal choice to represent US interests at the Holy See."
    Gingrich said she would try to work with the Vatican on stopping terrorism, combating human trafficking, and fighting diseases like HIV-AIDS and Ebola.
    If approved by the Senate foreign relations committee, Gingrich's nomination will go to the full senate for a confirmation vote.