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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

18th May 2012


Nigel Baker, British Ambassador to the Holy See since September 2011

The acronym stands for “Istituto per le Opere di Religione”, or Institute for Religious Works. A typical Pontifical Institution, you might think, running standard charitable activities on behalf of good causes.

Well, the I.O.R. does that too. But it is better known, if misleadingly, as “the Vatican Bank”. This week, Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See were invited in to learn more about the Institute, and see the I.O.R. for themselves.

Mention the Vatican Bank and Dan Brown, Roberto Calvi and the Banco Ambrosiano spring to mind. But remember that Calvi died 30 years ago – I was 16 at the time! What was valuable about the briefing was to hear just how much the I.O.R., under new and professional management, has been doing in its efforts to open itself up to the same transparent norms required of other financial institutions.

Pope Benedict has said that Papal institutions must demonstrate an exemplary degree of transparency. Over the last year, new regulations have been put in place, governance tightened, and teams from the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL) invited in to advise the I.O.R. and other institutions of the Vatican that manage money on how to meet their international transparency and compliance obligations. This is a process my government supports.

We know from the UK that even the most reputable banks and financial institutions are vulnerable to misuse as conduits for managing the proceeds of terrorism, laundering money from crime, and hiding tax evasion. Loopholes must be closed. A great deal of attention is being paid to this issue internationally. The Holy See’s reputation depends on it being able to show that the Vatican’s own such institutions are as transparent and resistant to abuse as possible. The process of getting there will no doubt generate headlines, reminding us of events 30 years ago. Plenty still needs to be done. But the Holy See needs to stick to its guns. It is in their interest, and ours.

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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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