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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

29th April 2013

Holy See: Point of Fruitful Encounter

HMA Baker welcomes students and staff of the Cambridge Muslim College, April 2013.

As an Embassy, we very often receive visits from individuals or delegations from Britain who are coming to the Holy See, or passing through Rome, and whose work is relevant to our own global priorities.

One of the pleasures of being ambassador here is the sheer variety of such encounters, reflecting the extensive waterfront that we cover in our work. For example…

The Cambridge Muslim College paid their second visit here earlier this month. The College, in its own words, “welcomes Muslims of all backgrounds who wish to deepen their pastoral skills and their awareness of contemporary developments in Britain and the world”.

It provides admirable practical and academic training to future leaders of the British Muslim community relevant to their engagement in and with modern British society. Like last year, the student group – with London, Yorkshire and Lancashire well represented – was keen to learn about the role of the embassy, the relationship between the British government and faith, and of course the impact of Pope Francis on global debates. It was a pleasure to welcome them again.

Quite different was a visit from British Anglican and Catholic Canon lawyers, led by Mark Hill QC, who were continuing their regular series – now dating back to 1999 – of ecumenical dialogues on canon law in the Roman Catholic tradition and the Anglican Communion.

When Westminster Abbey Choir came to Rome in June last year, I talked of the importance of “doing” ecumenism. The importance of faith to contemporary society makes the relationships between faiths significant in terms of community, inter-state and intra-state relations. And those relationships can only prosper if there is a thickening of engagement at all levels – between leaders, yes, but also in terms of educational exchange, cultural interaction and, in this case, through the prism of legal studies.

It was good to see the excellent professional understanding between the canon lawyers, at a time when a new Pope, and a new Archbishop of Canterbury, are reaching out in new ways to global societies at this time of economic and social crisis.

Later this week I shall be receiving a third group. They are UK Catholic parliamentary interns, young people under a scheme run by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales to provide young Catholic graduates with an opportunity of work experience with parliamentarians, in charities (like CAFOD or Caritas) or in other professional bodies.

It is an excellent way to provide life skills for young people on the cusp of their working and professional lives. One or two may even be interested in a career in diplomacy. As an embassy, we shall be putting them together with Holy See experts and others involved in international and global church issues in Rome.

Three British groups. Very different in terms of their range of concerns and interests, and even their frames of cultural reference. But each one drawing significant value out of their encounters at the Holy See here in Rome. We are delighted, each in a different way, to be facilitating their work here. The relationships they build on these visits will be important for them and their Holy See hosts. They will also, I have no doubt, be fruitful for the United Kingdom in the years ahead.

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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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