Nigel Baker » Ambassador to the Holy See

Nuns, the Church and Society

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Stereotypical images tend to come to mind, at least the non-Catholic British mind, when we think of nuns. We think of Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music. Perhaps Sister Wendy Beckett delivering art lectures. We might just stretch to Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta. Like most stereotypes, such images are both unhelpful and out-dated. The OED definition of the word is “Woman living in a convent usually … Read more »Nuns, the Church and Society

Happy Easter

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You won’t be surprised to hear that Easter is a busy time of year at the Holy See.  The Pope has a full schedule of engagements that take him through the solemnities of Holy Week to the great festivity of Easter Sunday and the Easter period beyond. Pope Francis will be applying his own particular touches to the week, with his visit to the high security prison at Rebibbia outside … Read more »Happy Easter

“Corruption stinks!”

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Pope Francis is a powerful campaigner against corruption; the exploitation by the powerful of the vulnerable, the poor and the weak. He returned to this theme again on his recent visit to Naples, a city blighted by the corrupting influence of organised crime. “Corruption stinks”, he said, “corrupt society stinks and a Christian who lets corruption into his soul is no Christian”. He was also clear that it is up … Read more »“Corruption stinks!”

Two years of Pope Francis

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With some surprise, I have just woken up to the fact that we are celebrating two years since the election of Pope Francis, the first Pope from the New World. It is a cliché, but it really does seem just the other day that I – along with everyone else – was waiting for the white smoke to emerge from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel , … Read more »Two years of Pope Francis

The Challenge of Pope Francis

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Pope Francis has caught the global imagination. That is one of the reasons for his global impact. There are few world leaders who speak to humanity, across territorial and cultural boundaries, in the same way. It provides the Pope with a global pulpit that enables him to reach out to people of all faiths, creeds and backgrounds. All modern Popes have understood this global role of their office, and borne … Read more »The Challenge of Pope Francis

Spiritual retreats and daily business

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This week, the Pope and the senior members of the Roman Curia are away on spiritual retreat. There are not many governments that take all their senior members away from the fray of the day-to-day for a whole week of reflection, and even here the Blackberries and smart-phones may not be entirely switched off. But I think it is good practice. In this world dominated by a 24 hour news … Read more »Spiritual retreats and daily business

#freedomtobelieve

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Most of the world’s population lives in countries where freedom of religion or belief is restricted in some way, and over a third where such limitations are extreme. Some 60 countries retain on their statute books laws against blasphemy, or apostasy, with often draconian punishments for those who transgress. And yet, as long ago as 1948, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established that: “Everyone has the … Read more »#freedomtobelieve

Clerical child sex abuse: making progress but not there yet

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The issue of sex abuse of children by priests has accompanied me throughout my mission here since I arrived in Rome in August 2011. As I was preparing to take up the role, it was clear to me that nothing had done more in recent years to damage the credibility of the Holy See, and to undermine its values-based message, in the UK and elsewhere, than its failure to understand … Read more »Clerical child sex abuse: making progress but not there yet

Helping Pope Francis

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The new Holy See Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, is well-named. When earlier this week Msgr. Gallagher met the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, the Deputy Secretary, the Maltese Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, reminded us that the name Gallagher is the anglicisation of the Irish surname Ó Gallchobhair, meaning “foreign help” or “foreign helper”. And in his speech, Archbishop Gallagher was clear that that is how he … Read more »Helping Pope Francis

Remembering the Holocaust

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In November 2005, the United Nations General Assembly declared 27 January as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The date recognises the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau slave labour and extermination camps in 1945.  As well as being an occasion to remember the millions who suffered and died under Nazi policies, Holocaust Memorial Day gives us a chance to reflect on the nature of anti-Semitism, xenophobia and prejudice in general and to debate … Read more »Remembering the Holocaust