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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

29th September 2015

The Jubilee of Mercy: a guide for British pilgrims

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© Copyright Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization. All rights reserved

What does Pope Francis’s announcement of the Jubilee Year of Mercy mean for an embassy accredited to the Holy See?

Above all, it means many more people coming to Rome, and specifically to the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica, not as tourists but as pilgrims. Our role, together with the British Embassy to Italy, is to advise pilgrims how to make their stay a safe and joyful one, and to coordinate with Italian and Holy See authorities to ensure their visit is as safe as possible.

Jubilee Years do not come round very often – the last was in 2000, and the last Extraordinary Jubilee was in 1983. We share the wish of the Holy See that all who come between 8 December 2015 and 20 November 2016 – the opening and closing dates of the Jubilee Year – will, in the Pope’s words, “experience the grace of the Jubilee” in comfort, joy and security.

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, under the direction of Archbishop Rino Fisichella, is responsible to Pope Francis for the management of the Jubilee Year, both in terms of providing guidance to local bishops, as well as ensuring adequate preparations here in Rome. One of their most important messages is that anyone considering participating in any Jubilee initiative, from taking part in an event or making a pilgrimage, should consult their website. In particular, they encourage all pilgrims to Rome, who wish to enter the Holy Door of the Basilica of St Peter, to register on the section of the website dedicated to “Pilgrim Registration”, which will give them access to the reserved walkway being created on Via della Conciliazione leading up to St Peter’s. Without registration, it will not be possible to enter the Basilica through the Holy Door. Pilgrims wishing to pass through the Holy Doors of the Basilicas of St John Lateran, St Mary Major, or St Paul’s outside the Walls, do not have to register.

Once a pilgrim is in Rome, Jubilee volunteers organised by the Holy See will be on hand to assist them at various points in the city including the Reception Centre at 7 Via della Conciliazione, and in three nearby Roman churches – San Salvatore in Lauro, Santa Maria in Vallicella (better known as the Chiesa Nuova) and San Giovanni Battista dei Fiorentini. There will be information points at Fiumicino Airport and the Rome railway stations, and also first aid posts at all of Rome’s four basilicas. I also recommend that pilgrims consult our Travel Advice which has useful information for travellers to Italy, including specific advice on the Jubilee, and will be kept up to date.

There will be many Jubilee events in Rome throughout the year. Pope Francis will receive, as usual, at the General Audience in St Peter’s Square every Wednesday, and will pray the Angelus from the Apostolic Palace above the Piazza each Sunday. Additionally, one Saturday every month, there will be a public Papal Jubilee greeting, over and above the regular liturgies, processions and rituals that make up the liturgical calendar of the Pope. As an embassy, our own role is rather prosaic. But my hope is that all who come to Rome this Jubilee, and especially the British pilgrims, will be able to enjoy and contribute fully to the success of this extraordinary Jubilee year.

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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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