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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

11th May 2016

Honouring Msgr O’Flaherty: a man who saved lives

In November 2014, I posted a blog about Msgr Hugh O’Flaherty, an extraordinary man who, during WWII, took risks for the Church, and saved lives.

The next chapter in his story was written earlier this week, when family members, relatives of those he had saved and those who had worked with him, and others keen to keep alive his memory, gathered in the Vatican to witness the unveiling of a permanent memorial in his honour.

Msgr O'Flaherty plaque at Vatican

The ceremony, organised by the Irish embassy to the Holy See and the Pontifical Teutonic College (where O’Flaherty lived for 20 years) was extremely moving. A Mass in German, English and Latin was followed by a dignified and happy unveiling of the plaque in the Campo Santo of the College – a green space just beside the Pope’s Santa Marta residence and a stone’s throw from St Peter’s Basilica – by Msgr O’Flaherty’s nephew. The presence of the British, German, Irish and Canadian ambassadors was a reminder of O’Flaherty’s extraordinary work on behalf of escaped prisoners of war during the German occupation of Rome, and his deep humanity towards those of all sides in distress and need of help. The British Defence Attaché to Italy laid a wreath on behalf of a grateful United Kingdom.

An important element in the visit to Rome by the O’Flaherty Memorial Committee was an event at the College of St Isidore in Rome. There, Irish representatives of religious organisations spoke powerfully about their work in contemporary conflict zones – especially Angola and South Sudan – providing a presence, and saving lives, in places forgotten by the world. It was good to be reminded that this work by religious brothers and sisters goes on day in day out, often unsung, always vital. The permanent memorial to Hugh O’Flaherty – which you can visit in Rome – is also their memorial.

3 comments on “Honouring Msgr O’Flaherty: a man who saved lives

  1. Thanks to All involved who made last weeks visit to Rome so enjoyable.
    Long may it continue.
    Hugh Dineen 《grand nephew To Msgr O’Flaherty》

  2. Thank you Nigel for your hospitality and for helping us in our quest to make sure the Monsignor’s deeds will continue to inspire others to do the same.

    Greg Canty

  3. Ambassador Baker, on behalf of the Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Society, I would like to thank you most sincerely for your continuing interest in and support for the Hugh O’Flaherty story. We in the Society have as our primary objective the sharing of his story with current and future generations. He is an inspirational role model for young and old alike and his motto of “God Has No Country” is more relevant than ever.
    Thank you also for your hospitality during our visit.

    Kind Regards
    Jerry O’Grady
    Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Society

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.

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