Australian Embassy
Holy See
Holy See



Buongiorno! Bonjour! (did you know the Holy See’s official diplomatic language is French?)    Hello!

Welcome to the official website of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See.  I was honoured to take up my role as Australia’s first resident female career Ambassador and third since the position was established in 2008. Here I am introducing my husband, Dr Adrian Hitchman to His Holiness Pope Francis following presentation of credentials on 8 September 2016.  Listen to my credentials' interview with the Vatican Radio here.

The Holy See is both a state recognised in international law and the governing body for the Catholic Church of 1.3 billion.  As Australia's official representative to the Holy See under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, my focus is on the state to state relationship.  Over five million Australians identify as Catholics.  Many of them greeted the three Popes who have visited Australia: Paul VI in 1970, John Paul II in 1986 and 1995, and Benedict XVI in 2008 for World Youth Day in Sydney, which attracted TV and internet audiences of more than a hundred million each.  Over 10,000 of them witnessed from St Peter’s Square in Vatican City the canonisation of Mary MacKillop as Saint Mary of the Cross on 17 October 2010.  In Rome, too, many welcomed Benedict XVI as he opened the Australian Catholic Church's pilgrimage centre, Domus Australia, in 2011.

My mission to the Holy See is to represent modern Australia – our vibrant democracy, indigenous heritage, multicultural society, activist foreign policy, and committed lay and religious making a difference in Rome and at home.  See Forthcoming Events and Recent Events for further information on our activities.  We hope you can join us!  

With warm wishes

Melissa Hitchman
Australian Ambassador to the Holy See


Australia launches 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper

On 23 November 2017 Australian Prime Minister The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP launched the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper. It is the Australian Government’s first comprehensive Foreign Policy White Paper in 14 years. The 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper is essential to our future security and prosperity and it affirms an outward-looking Australia that is fully engaged with the world. Find out more #FPWhitePaper 

Australia elected to the UN Human Rights Council 2018-2020


The Honourable Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, released a statement on 17 October 2017 to announce Australia's election by a majority of United Nations member states to serve on the Human Rights Council, the world’s peak body for promoting and protecting human rights.

Australia will take its seat on 1 January 2018 for a three-year term and is ready to work closely with other countries and civil society to protect and advance human rights around the world. It is in Australia's national interest to shape the work of the Council and uphold the international rules-based order.  Respecting fundamental human rights and freedoms, and building them into the fabric of a society, makes Australia and the world safer and more secure.
Find out more #Oz4HumanRights


Forthcoming Events

7 December 2017                     Launch of the Australian Indigenous Catalogue Launch (Collaboration of the Vatican Ethnological
                                                         Museum and the Australian National University) in Australia (Rome launch date TBC)

12 December 2017                  St Catherine's and Cranbrook Schools Christmas Concert

26 January 2018                      Australia Day commemoration events at Domus Australia

8 March 2018                             International Women's Day event


Recent Events 

7 December 2017 - Promoting Australian Indigenous culture in the Vatican and beyond


The Australian Embassy to the Holy See welcomes the launch in Canberra on 7 December 2017 of the Australia Catalogue, a five-year collaboration between the Vatican Ethnological Museum, National Museum of Australia and Australian National University supported by the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AITSIS) and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC).   The inaugural Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, then HE Mr Tim Fischer AC, who has championed the Catalogue since 2009, attended.  The Catalogue is one in the Museum’s series on indigenous culture across the world.  It details Australian Indigenous art and artefacts gifted to the Vatican from communities in New Norcia, the Kimberley region and the Tiwi Islands.  The Collection also includes works donated on the occasion of the canonisation of St Mary MacKillop, featuring a painting by Indigenous artist Yvonne O’Neill (Photo 1) and a Torres Strait Island headdress by Anson John Dorante (Photo 2).  Museum Director Fr Nicola Mapelli  and Australian Editor Katherine Aigner travelled to Indigenous communities over several years, partnering with them to share their culture in a spirit of education and respect.  That objective has been achieved, with the 30,000 who visit the Vatican Museums every day now having the opportunity to experience Australian Indigenous art.   Having launched in the country of origin as a sign of respect, the launch in the Vatican will take place on 29 May 2018 during Reconciliation Week. 

20 November 2017 – Promoting Health and Wellbeing through Catholic Health Australia and the Australian Catholic University


Catholic Health Australia (CHA) CEO Suzanne Greenwood represented Australia, speaking at the 23rd Conference of the International Confederation of Catholic Healthcare Institutions on Addressing Health Inequalities at the Vatican from 16-18 November 2017. The Australian Catholic University (ACU) offered a Health CEO Symposium at its Rome Campus from 19-21 November 2017. Partnering with both, the Australian Embassy to the Holy See hosted a reception on 20 November for CHA/ACU at which HE Melissa Hitchman, CEO Greenwood (Photos 1 and 3), ACU Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Greg Craven AO GCSG (Photos 1, 2 and 4) addressed guests from the Holy See, Australia, South Africa and the United States.  They noted Australia as an international best practice leader in health preparedness and response, antimicrobial resistance, universal coverage, health technology assessment and effective tobacco control. They also highlighted Australia’s contribution through its aid program to efforts to eliminate tuberculosis (TB), a major health security challenge in the Indo Pacific region. Guests included Mercy Health Chair and ACU Pro-Chancellor Mr Julien O’Connell AM (Photos 4 – left and 5), ACU Executive Director, Strategic Partnerships Mr Tom Ristoski (Photo 4 – second from left), Holy See Secretariat of State’s Msgr Seamus Horgan (Photo 4 – right) and ACU Provost Professor Pauline Nugent (Photo 5).

10 November 2017 – Welcoming Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to Rome


The Australian Embassies to the Holy See and Italy, with support from the Australian High Commission in Fiji, co-hosted a welcome dinner for Pacific Islands Forum Leaders during their visit to Rome en route to the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change (COP23) in Bonn.  Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers and officials from Nauru, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, New Zealand, PNG and Australia were among the party, supported by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor DBE.  Leaders met Italian President Mattarella, His Holiness Pope Francis and the FAO.  See the President’s remarks, His Holiness’ statement and FAO outcomes, as well as interviews by the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, the President of Kiribati and Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa with Vatican Radio. COP23 is especially significant as a ‘Pacific COP’, with Fiji as the first Pacific island country to serve as COP President.  As a leading Pacific nation, Australia strongly supports Fiji’s overall objectives as President, which include bringing a ‘Pacific consciousness’ to the COP and delivering outcomes for the Pacific.

8 November 2017 – Welcoming the Holy See’s 12th female Head of Mission, Ambassador-designate Callista Gingrich and Newt Gingrich

HE Melissa Hitchman and Dr Adrian Hitchman met Ambassador-designate Callista Gingrich and Newt Gingrich on 8 November 2017, welcoming them to Rome.  Ambassador-designate Gingrich brings to 12 the number (or around 14 per cent) of resident female Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.  The Australian Embassy to the Holy See congratulates Ms Gringrich on her appointment and wishes her well in her role.  We look forward to continuing our close collaboration on issues of mutual national interest, pursuing with the Holy See shared goals related to issues as diverse as combatting human trafficking and modern slavery, promoting peace and security, and broadening gender empowerment.

26 October 2017 - Inaugurating the Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Personal Representative to the Holy See

HE Melissa Hitchman and Deputy Alison Edye attended the inauguration at Caravita on 26 October 2017 of Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi as Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Personal Representative to the Holy See.  Archbishop Ntahoturi is the First African and first Francophone to hold the position.  The Embassy congratulates him on his appointment and looks forward to continuing to collaborate on interfaith dialogue issues during his term.

10 October 2017 - Considering Connectivity as a Human Right

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Foundation for World Wide Cooperation hosted a conference on Connectivity as a Human Right at the Vatican on 10 October 2017.  Speakers included former Italian President Romano Prodi, Professor Nicholas Negroponte, Professor Jeffrey Sachs and UN United Nations Undersecretary and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.  The Conference considered progress to realisation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9(c) on affordable access to IT by 2030, and other SDGs with connectivity elements such as SDG4 on education, SDG5 on gender equality, SDG7 on energy infrastructure and SDG17 on science and innovation.  Australia collaborates with the UN on all these SDGs, and looks forward to continuing to do so during its three year term on the Human Rights Council from 2018-2020.  Australia is the first representative from Oceania and welcomes the opportunity to represent the interests of the region.

9 October 2017 - The Top End performing in Rome

Charles Darwin University's Voxcrox choral ensemble performed at John Cabot University for family, friends and students under Music Director Paolo Fabris (pictured right of centre in waistcoat).  Australian Ambassador to Italy HE Dr Greg French, Australian Ambassador to the Holy See HE Ms Melissa Hitchman and their families were moved by the repertoire of international pieces and Australian favourites.  The performance was the culmination of a tour including Milan, Florence, Castegnetoli and Rome.  The Embassies thank Voxcrox for sharing its talent and wish the ensemble safe travels home.

3-6 October 2017 - Australia's eSafety Commissioner and Australian Interpol Director contributing to the 'Child Dignity in the Digital World' Congress


Australia's eSafety Commissioner, Ms Julie Inman Grant (Photo 1 -  on the right with HE Melissa Hitchman on the left and the UK's Rt Hon Baroness Joanna Shields, founder of WePROTECT, centre), attended the Pontifical Gregorian University's 'Child Dignity in the Digital World Congress' from 3-6 October 2017.  Participants explored research on the extent of child sexual abuse online and best practice solutions, taking a multidisciplinary approach involving academia, business, government and NGOs.  Interpol's Executive Director Police Services (formerly with the Australian Federal Police) Mr Tim Morris (Photo 2) addressed the Plenary session on 4 October with a law enforcement perspective, outlining what we know, how serious is the problem, how prepared is law enforcement and where are the gaps in our knowledge? Congress participants met with His Holiness Pope Francis on 6 October, where the Congress' Rome Declaration was read out by Irish teenager Muiirean O'Carroll (Photo 3). The Congress was supported by Professor Dr Karlijin Demasure (Photo 4 - second from left) and the University's Centre for Child Protection team. Commissioner Inman Grant briefed Australian religious and friends on 6 October on Conference outcomes and the work of her Office (Photo 5).  Australia's Cyber Engagement Strategy was also launched on 4 October (see article above).

28-29 September 2017 - Celebrating PNAC Diaconate Ordinations

HE Melissa Hitchman, spouse Dr Adrian Hitchman, Deputy Alison Edye and Embassy Public Diplomacy Officer Ms Madonna Noonan celebrated on 28 and 29 September 2017 with Reverend Deacon Matthew Meagher (Archdiocese of Sydney) his ordination to the diaconate at St Peter’s Basilica, in the presence of family and friends from Australia, followed by lunch at the Pontifical North American College, an evening reception and thanksgiving mass.  The Embassy congratulates Reverend Deacon Meagher on his ordination. 



6 July 2017 – Celebrating NAIDOC Week - Indigenous student wins Rome scholarship

Nathan Pitt is the inaugural winner of the Francis Xavier Conaci scholarship which will assist him to study at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) Rome Centre this July as part of his International Core Curriculum studies at ACU’s Brisbane Campus.  Nathan is an Aboriginal student from Brisbane, with cultural connections to Yieman country.  The Francis Xavier Conaci Scholarship recognises the life of an Indigenous Australian youth who, in the mid 1850s, travelled from New Norcia in Western Australia to Rome to study in a Benedictine monastery. Sadly, Conaci died while there and is believed to be buried in Rome. His story continues to be discovered.  The scholarship gives contemporary meaning to Conaci’s journey by enabling an ACU Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander student to study in Rome as Conaci himself did 164 years ago. ACU and the Australian Embassy to the Holy See hosted a ceremony during NAIDOC Week to acknowledge the scholarship. It has been awarded in an auspicious year. 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum in which Australians voted to amend the constitution to include Aboriginal people in the census and allow the Commonwealth to create laws for them. It is also the 25th anniversary of the Mabo decision which rejected the concept of ‘Terra Nullius’.  The Australian Embassy to the Holy See congratulates Nathan on this achievement and thanks ACU for its generosity in funding the Scholarship.  Further information is available here.

1 July 2017 – Strengthening Australia’s relationship with the Holy See through the Deputy Prime Minister's visit

 Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP visited the Holy See on 1 July 2017.  This was the first Ministerial visit by Australia since 2014.  Minister Joyce met Secretary of State His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin (photo) and President of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development His Eminence Cardinal Peter Turkson.  He and Mrs Joyce toured the Australian Collection in the Vatican Ethnological Museum with Director Fr Nicola Mapelli, as well as the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.  Following representing Australia at the Food and Agriculture Organisation on 3 July, Minister Joyce interviewed with Vatican Radio.  He said the Holy See had a unique role and standing in international affairs, and it was important this relationship continued.  Discussions were wide-ranging.  They included Australia’s global moral responsibility to increase food production to alleviate world poverty by ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture.   Their Eminences and Minister Joyce also focused on Australia’s commitment to meeting our international obligations to resettle refugees from the Middle East and Africa.  They exchanged views on the Holy See’s and Australian Government’s shared commitment to the realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Read Minister Joyce’s media release here.

Useful information about visiting the Holy See

Visiting the Vatican - general information on booking various Vatican tours and tickets for events presided by the Pope