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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

25th October 2013

UK Parliament comes to the Holy See

The All Party Parliamentary Group on the Holy See pictured with H.E. Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States

One intangible measure of the strength of a bilateral relationship is how far relations go beyond strict government to government formalities. Relations between the United Kingdom and the Holy See received a boost this week with a visit by 12 members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Holy See (APPG for short).

The APPG, set up in Parliament in 2004 and now with over 50 members, exists to help further the relationship between the UK and the Holy See. The visiting delegation included Members of Parliament from all three main political parties, as well as three members of the House of Lords, from all parts of the United Kingdom, under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Leigh MP. As Sir Edward told Vatican Radio at the end of the trip, this sixth visit by the APPG to the Holy See was the largest to date, with a more substantial programme, than at any time previously.

The APPG paid the calls you would expect: on senior officials in the Secretariat of State to hear about the Holy See’s external relations (from Syria to Colombia) and internal Vatican reforms; on Cardinal Turkson at the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace to discuss social justice concerns; and on Archbishop Muller at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to hear the latest views on key ethical and moral issues. They joined a crowd of over 100,000 pilgrims in St Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ weekly audience. However, calls were also paid outside the formal Vatican structures. For example, the APPG had a lively discussion at Caritas Internationalis on poverty, migration and refugee issues; and at the Sant’Egidio Community looking at how non-governmental actors can play a role in conflict prevention and reconciliation in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

There will be plenty of follow up, on issues as varied as violence against women, food and nutrition, the Middle East peace process, AIDs / HIV care, and the death penalty. Some of these will be taken forward between the UK and Holy See governments. Others, less formally but no less effectively, through contacts made and renewed between parliamentarians and Rome-based organisations and individuals. In a speech I gave during the visit, I said that Britain has nothing to lose and much to gain from developing further its relationship with the Holy See. Visits like that of the APPG show why.

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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