Avatar photo

Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

22nd December 2014

Looking back, looking forward: a few highlights

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II meets His Holiness Pope Francis, 3 April 2014. Photo: Osservatore Romano, all rights reserved
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II meets His Holiness Pope Francis, 3 April 2014. Photo: Osservatore Romano, all rights reserved
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II meets His Holiness Pope Francis, 3 April 2014. Photo: Osservatore Romano, all rights reserved

The end of the year is always a good moment to take stock, and that holds no less for embassies as for individuals. A few of our 2014 highlights:

  • The large number of high level bilateral visits to the Vatican, topped of course by that of Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh in April to see Pope Francis. Such visits show that the UK places great importance on the relationship with the Holy See, and range from the symbolic – such as senior Royal visits including the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester for the double Papal canonisation in April, or the Earl of Wessex in October – to the policy driven substantial, like the Home Secretary to talk about human trafficking in April, or Baroness Anelay focusing on freedom of religion and belief in December. Our long list of visitors in 2014 includes members of parliament, senior officials, ministers, and figures from civil society, who help to keep us focused and drive forward our bilateral relations.
  • The event on 3 December commemorating the Centenary of re-established diplomatic relations, including a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Parolin and a reception in the medieval cloister of St Paul’s outside the Walls. It was wonderful to see the level of participation from the Catholic hierarchies of England & Wales, Scotland and Ireland, the Roman Curia, other Christian representatives, and the British Holy See community here in Rome. The step taken in 1914 was an historic one, and it was right to mark it this year.
  • The growth in attention and understanding of UK government to the role of the Holy See internationally. As an embassy, we believe we played our part, for example through making the linkages between the Holy See and British networks on issues as important as sexual violence in conflict, on which Pope Francis tweeted, migration and modern slavery, freedom of religion and other basic issues of human rights issues, international development, climate change, and global conflict and security issues. Pope Francis’s energy only reinforces the Holy See’s relevance for governments around the world, and we need to respond in kind.
  • The British 2014 chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and our quiet work to bring the Holy See and IHRA closer together. And the now annual visit of the Cambridge Muslim College to the Holy See, reinforcing the links and increasing understanding between British Islam and the centre of global Catholicism.
  • An increase in public and government awareness for the difficulties faced by Christians in the Middle East. Middle East Minister Hugh Robertson came to the Holy See in March to hear views at first hand before subsequent travel in the region. The Prince of Wales was a standard bearer in his highlighting of the issue. As an embassy, we tried to do our part both in the background and in public.
  • The prominence of British faces at the business end of Holy See work, from parliamentarians like Lord Patten and Baroness Hollins, leading members respectively on the Papal Commission looking at Holy See communications at the Commission for the Protection of Minors, to the appointment this year of a new British Cardinal, His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster. We look forward to Archbishop Paul Gallagher taking up the reins as Secretary for Relations with States in the new year.

As I say, these are just highlights. The duck’s legs continue to pound relentlessly under the surface, and there is so much more I could flag up.

What is clear is that 2014 was an unprecedentedly busy year for this embassy; and that 2015 promises more of the same. I should like to thank my small team and all our collaborators for their hard work over the year, and wish them and all our readers the very best of wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Thank you for your interest in our work, and we look forward to hearing your views on what we’ve done this year, and what more we should be doing next.

1 comment on “Looking back, looking forward: a few highlights

  1. As a 7th Generation Irish Canadian it has been difficult for our family to love the
    British Monarchy. Until this present Queen Elizabeth brought the Royal Family
    into the 21st Century. One cannot help but admire how she has handled all the members of her large family and all their various tragedy’s and triumphs.

    I wish Her Royal Majesty many more years of good health, sound mind, and many moments of love and joy.
    May God Bless and Keep you for many many more years.
    God Bless Your Majesty.

Comments are closed.

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.

Follow Nigel