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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

24th April 2014

The Vatican: A global hub

Weekly General Audience

It has been a busy few days at the Vatican. Easter week, with its public ceremonies and celebrations, is just behind us. This coming weekend will see the canonisation of two Popes, John XXIII and John Paul II. Pope Francis will preside, and the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, could also be present. Along with many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of others.

Even more than usual, the sense of the Vatican operating as a hub for world religion, global leaders and ordinary people of all creeds, colours and classes is palpable. The Pope’s traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the City and the World”) message on Easter Sunday was, as always, covered extensively by the international media. The range of issues he addressed was striking, in a way difficult to imagine from any other world leader. He touched on the need to tackle hunger, conflict, and wastefulness. On the need to protect the vulnerable and comfort migrants far from home. And he spoke in specific terms about Ebola sufferers in Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia; about those kidnapped in different parts of the world by terrorists; about the conflict in Syria; about violence in Iraq; peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine; conflict in Central African Republic, Nigeria and South Sudan; the need for reconciliation in Venezuela; and the importance of peace initiatives in Ukraine.

So it is no coincidence, if something of a surprise even to the Holy See, that delegations from around the world will attend the canonisation ceremony in St Peter’s Square this weekend. Although primarily a religious, and specifically Catholic, event, there will be at least 19 heads of state and 24 heads of government, as well as many other delegations from every corner of the globe. They are here because they wish to pay homage to two great world leaders – John XXIII and John Paul II – who bestrode the second half of the 20th century, and because they recognise the ongoing global role and impact of the Papacy in its new guise under Pope Francis. The Queen – Her Majesty herself, of course, met the Pope earlier this month – will be represented by The Duke of Gloucester, who was also here for the beatification of John Paul II in 2011 and the inauguration of Pope Francis’ pontificate last year.

Yet again, the eyes of much of the world will be focused on St Peter’s Square. The Pope is apparently the most “searched for” personality on Google, and the most re-tweeted of world leaders. Virtually and physically, the Vatican remains one of the world’s great meeting points.

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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