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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

17th October 2011

Community Education

Amongst my various introductory calls since arriving in Rome this August, I have had the opportunity to visit the Venerable English College and the Pontifical Scots College. These are both ancient institutions – the Venerable English College celebrates the 650th anniversary of its foundation, by King Edward III, next year – which throughout their history have been dedicated to the ideals of high education and self-sacrificial service.

The two colleges, as well as the Irish College and the Beda which I have yet to visit, now train young British men for a lifetime of service as priests in the Roman Catholic Church. Once upon a time, this was seen by many British people as an activity directly inimical to the state and its interests. Indeed, the list of martyrs on the memorial stones at the English College, along with the rather gruesome catalogue of their deaths at the hands of the governments of 16th and 17th century England, is more than impressive. And the close links between the Scots College and the exiled Stuarts did not endear it to the 18th century Hanoverian dynasty.

But now anyone of good faith has a lot to thank these Colleges for. We all see in our daily lives the hard work in communities that parish priests perform up and down the land. They are there to look after the spiritual, but increasingly also the social and sometimes physical needs of their parishioners. They work closely with people of other faiths – the English College next week will celebrate the visit of a number of Anglican alumni – and their doors are open to all those who need help. In a way, they are the epitome of the Big Society in action. It is these Colleges that prepare so many young men for this service. They do so in the name, of course, of the Catholic Church. But it is communities of all faiths and none, up and down the United Kingdom, that benefit. A vote of thanks.

About Nigel Baker

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as…

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba (2003-6) and then as British Ambassador in La Paz, Bolivia (2007-11). In July 2016, Nigel finished his posting, and is currently back in London.

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provided a regular window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The blogs covered a wide range of issues, from Royal and Ministerial visits to Diplomacy and Faith, freedom of religion, human trafficking and climate change.

More on Nigel’s career

Nigel was based in London between 1998 and 2003. He spent two years on European Union issues (for the UK 1998 EU Presidency and on European Security and Defence questions), before crossing St James’s Park to work for three years as The Assistant Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. At St James’s Palace, Nigel worked on international issues, including the management of The Prince of Wales’s overseas visits and tours, on the Commonwealth, interfaith issues, the arts and international development.

Nigel spent much of the early part of his FCO career in Central Europe, after an initial stint as Desk Officer for the Maghreb countries in the Near East and North Africa department (1990-91). Between 1992 and 1996, Nigel served in the British embassies in Prague and Bratislava, the latter being created in 1993 after the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

Nigel joined the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in September 1989. Between 1996 and 1998 he took a two year academic sabbatical to research and write about themes in 18th century European history, being based in Verona but also researching in Cambridge, Paris and Naples. The research followed from Nigel’s time as a student at Cambridge (1985-88) where he read history and was awarded a First Class Honours degree, followed by his MA in 1992.

Before joining the Foreign Office, Nigel worked briefly for the Conservative Research Department in London at the time of the 1989 European election campaign.

Nigel married Alexandra (Sasha) in 1997. They have one son, Benjamin, born in Bolivia in September 2008.

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