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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

17th July 2014

Pope Francis at work

Steve Townsend, Deputy Head of Mission British Embassy to the Holy See, greets Pope Francis at the end of a Papal celebration

The following is a guest blog by Steve Townsend, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy to the Holy See

In July in Rome, thoughts start to turn to holidays, and escaping the humidity of the Eternal City for the beach or the mountains. Most people think that they have deserved their break, and look forward to the chance to unwind and re-charge their batteries. However, despite their being no General Audiences in July (which is not unusual) Pope Francis is continuing to work during the summer.

Pope Francis has set himself a very heavy workload. Since his election in March 2013, he has made two major foreign trips (to Brazil and to the Holy Land), and will be travelling to Korea in August. He has completed five Italy trips (to Lampedusa, Assisi, Sicily, Calabria and Molise), and this does not include his various visits to parishes within Rome. According to the Holy See, by the end of June he had celebrated 95 major liturgical events and given 73 official homilies and 231 speeches.

He has written one major Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, as well as three Apostolic Letters and five motu propio (documents “by his own impulse” and amending laws or giving instructions). There have been 54 General Audiences, which have attracted about 6 million people – and the Pope spends about two hours after each one greeting pilgrims and the sick, no matter what the weather or temperature.

And all this is apart from the hundreds of letters he receives daily, the meetings with the Advisory Council of Cardinals and the heads of the dicasteries (ministries), the visits by Heads of State and Government and other key figures. He is overseeing a major reform of the administrative and financial structure of the Holy See and pushing forward work on improving the procedures for preventing child abuse.

He celebrates Mass each morning at 7am at the Domus Santa Marta, with a invited congregation of 50 or 60, all of whom he meets afterwards. And the new “Pope App” means that the faithful can follow him 24 hours a day (not counting the 14 million followers he has on Twitter).

This programme would be punishing for a young man, let alone one 77 years old. In fact, just thinking about it makes me want to go and lie down!

1 comment on “Pope Francis at work

  1. My magazine,the scholar,will soon come out with a bumper edition on pope francis(i call him the uncommon pope who is unpredictable).he is on a rescue mission to salvage the catholic church whose image was dainted by clerical abuse.

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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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