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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

11th January 2012

Looking ahead to 2012

Presentation of Credentials, L'Osservatore Romano copyright
Ambassador Nigel Baker presenting his Letter of Credence to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, 9 September 2011. Photo: L’Osservatore Romano copyright, all rights reserved.

The address of Pope Benedict XVI to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, at the start of each year, is always an opportunity to look ahead at the foreign policy challenges of coming months. 2012 was no exception, and I was struck by just how much of his Holiness’s wide ranging speech dovetailed with the priorities of the British Government.

In general terms the Pope, throughout this Christmas period, has focused on a number of key messages: human dignity as the basis of all public policies; the need to maintain a keen eye on the future and the upbringing of the next generation; a total rejection of violence – legitimised or otherwise – as a means to an end; and the imperative of respecting creation as we plot our future and that of the planet. There is little here with which we would disagree.

But it is also in specific policy areas where there is much alignment and room for collaboration. The Pope’s call for justice, peace and reconciliation in Africa, and particularly the priority of tackling the ongoing crisis in Somalia, are issues of priority for the Foreign Office – the United Kingdom will be hosting a major international conference on Somalia in February that seeks to draw together the international response to the problems facing that country and the wider Horn of Africa region. The ongoing transformation of the political scene in the Middle East and North Africa remains, for the Holy See and the UK, a situation both of hope and of concern. Pope Benedict highlighted the advances made at the Durban UNFCCC Climate Change Conference, and their significance for the well-being of the planet – like us, he also is looking ahead to the Rio plus 20 Summit later this year, where we expect the development of sustainable policies looking beyond the 2015 expiry of the Millennium Development Goals. Other priority areas, including tackling the global scourge of human trafficking, addressing the European economic crisis, and the need to monitor and strengthen freedom of religious belief across the world, offer great scope for working together between the Holy See and the British Government.

Commentators have characterised Pope Benedict’s address as “sombre”. We live in difficult times. But I also told Vatican Radio that 2012 will also be a year for celebration. In 2012, we are proud to host the Olympic Games, and to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. We shall continue to look forward, together, with hope and confidence.

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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