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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

5th October 2012

Looking towards the Synod

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams. Photo: © Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk

Amidst the media frenzy over the trial of the Pope’s butler, and betting shop speculation over the appointment of the next Archbishop of Canterbury, you could be forgiven for forgetting that the coming week will see a series of significant events and milestones: the Opening of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, the formal declaration of the Year of Faith by Pope Benedict XVI, the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, and the final visit to Rome as Archbishop of Canterbury by Dr Rowan Williams.

Vatican II was without doubt the most important event in the life of the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy See in the 20th century. It sent the Church in new directions, confirmed its response to tendencies already developing around it, and established a revised (and healthier) basis for ecumenical relations and relations with other faiths. This means that expectations around this month’s Synod are high. It does not have the status or the remit of a Council. But at a time of social uncertainty, economic crisis and change, many will be looking to it to chart a route for the faithful in a difficult world. Most of all, many are hoping that the Synod will lift the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church away from a focus on internal issues and up towards its global and universal horizons.

The British representation will be strong. The Archbishop of Birmingham has been appointed one of the Fathers of the Synod. There will be strong delegations from the English and Scottish Catholic hierarchies. And as well as the Anglican Fraternal delegate, the Bishop of Sheffield, representing the concerns of the global Anglican communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury will address Synod and respond to questions from delegates in an unprecedented intervention on 10 October.

All this may seem far from the principal concerns of Embassies and foreign policy practitioners. Actually, I’m not so sure. The good health of the world’s great religions, and their ability to connect in a constructive way with the modern world around us, inspiring their faithful to engage as positive and active participants in society, is relevant to all of  us who believe in stability, prosperity, and a world fit for our children to live in. Let us hope that the Synod Fathers are inspired to set such a path. And our best wishes go in particular to the British Catholic and Anglican participants of this important event.

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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