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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

7th January 2015

Pope Francis in 2015

Pope Francis greets faithful at General Audience

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

After the busy Christmas period in the Vatican, January has often been a slightly quieter time. However, under Pope Francis this is not looking likely, as the diary is already filling up fast.

On 12th January there will be the traditional Address to the Diplomatic Corps, which has been used in the past to set out the Holy See’s foreign policy thoughts and priorities. For us, it is a valuable opportunity to get an overview of what is on the Pontiff’s mind for the forthcoming year. That same evening he sets off for his first trip of the year, firstly to Sri Lanka, which will have just held elections and where he will visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary at Madhu to pray for victims of the civil war, as well as his programme in Colombo. From then it is on to the Philippines, where the organisers are expecting crowds in the millions (when Pope John Paul II visited in 1995, the crowd for the Mass was estimated at about 5 million). This trip will be Pope Francis’ second to Asia in five months, a sign of the growing importance of that part of the globe for the Catholic Church.

Then in February there will be a number of key meetings, including the latest meeting of the advisory council of Cardinals (the “C9”) who are advising on reform of the Curia (the Holy See civil service), and of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (now with fifteen members, including another British member – Peter Saunders, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood).  There will also be the Consistory for the new 20 Cardinals, who were nominated on 4 January.  These new Cardinals, mostly from outside Europe, and from some countries which have never previously had a cardinal, reflect Pope Francis’ view of the universality of the Catholic Church.

There are also trips planned for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, as well as probably to Latin America and short trips to Europe. This is on top of the on-going reform process within the Curia, and the Synod on the Family in October, and the myriad of other meetings and announcements which now attract global attention.  Pope Francis has a reputation for being unpredictable and spontaneous – the only thing that I can predict for 2015 is that it will not be boring!

Happy New Year to you all, and all of us at the Embassy wish you a peaceful and prosperous 2015

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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