WASHINGTON (CNS) — Jesuit Father Thomas Reese was elected chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom June 21.

He was appointed to the commission two years ago by President Barack Obama, who early this year reappointed him to a second two-year term.

Father Reese said he was honored to serve as the commission’s chair and to work with others on the group that serves as a monitoring and advisory panel to the federal government on religious freedom abroad.


“World events underscore the importance of this fundamental right,” said Father Reese, adding that religious freedom is “under serious and sustained attack across much of the globe” and that the bipartisan federal government commission provides recommendations to help U.S. government leaders advance such freedom.

A White House news release announcing the priest’s new role noted his current post as a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, his two stints as a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University and his term as associate editor and then editor-in-chief of the Jesuit magazine America. Father Reese has been a Jesuit since 1962, and a priest since 1974. In addition to undergraduate and master’s degrees including a master’s of divinity, he holds a doctorate in political science.

Under the 1998 law that created the commission, three of its nine slots are filled by the president, two by Congressional leaders of the president’s party and the other four by House and Senate leaders in the party that doesn’t hold the presidency.

On June 21, two vice chairs of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom also were elected: Daniel Mark, an assistant professor of political science at Catholic-run Villanova University; and James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute.

Commissioners serve two-year terms and may be reappointed.