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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

9th January 2013

Pope Benedict speaks to the World

As is traditional, earlier this week Pope Benedict XVI received ambassadors from the 179 countries accredited to the Holy See for his New Year’s address on Holy See concerns, interests and recommendations on the main foreign affairs issues of the day.

Behind the pomp and circumstance of one of the great annual events of the Roman Curia, this valuable occasion provides ambassadors with the opportunity to get a feel for the Holy See’s global policy priorities, a chance to network, as well as giving the Holy See the ability to transmit its preoccupations to the world, setting an agenda for 2013.

Pope Benedict’s address delivered, as is traditional, in French, was a tour d’horizon of global issues, reflecting the engagement of the Holy See’s unique network across the continents.

Three broad themes struck me particularly:

  • The reminder, through the extent of issues covered, of the Holy See’s global role. Pope Benedict commented pertinently on events in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan and North Africa, parts of Asia, on Europe and Latin America, and on big issues of human rights, freedom of conscience and religious liberty, euthanasia, terrorism, the importance of education to development, and the role of religious dialogue in settling political disputes.
  • The message that peace, truth and justice are not and cannot be abstract principles, but need to be made real and require constant effort to uphold. The responsibility for that lies with civil and political authorities, principally at national level. Pope Benedict invoked in particular the appalling carnage in Syria, and the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Horn of Africa as parts of the world that require us to go the extra mile in the search for peace.
  • The need for investment in education and leadership, looking towards the future both in the developing world, and in crisis-ridden Europe; in other words, that we have to tackle the conditions generating poverty or economic crisis if we are to deal with the surface symptoms. And a reminder that there is more to current crises than technical economic issues: in the Pope’s words, we must tackle the “spread” in social well-being  – between as well as within countries – as well as the spreads in financial markets.

Much of this dovetails with Britain’s agenda for its Presidency of the G8, that we assumed at the beginning of the year. We are looking forward to exploring with the Holy See just how we can address the Pope’s foreign policy concerns, and working together through our networks on improving governance through transparency, accountability and open government.

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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