Nigel Baker » Ambassador to the Holy See

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



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


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


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


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

The Jesuits: revival, restoration or re-establishment


Earlier this week, the embassy co-hosted with the Pontifical Gregorian University – the university in Rome run by the Jesuits – an event to commemorate the bicentenary of the decision by Pope Pius VII to re-establish the Society of Jesus in 1814, 41 years after its suppression by Pope Clement XIV. This was much more than an historical event. The Jesuits continue to play a crucial role in the global … Read more »The Jesuits: revival, restoration or re-establishment

The Universal Papacy

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The title may have startled you. It was Pope Innocent III, back in the 13th century, who declared that as ‘Vicar of Christ’ the Pope had received from God “not only the universal church but the whole world to govern”. Even at the time, secular rulers begged to differ, leading to centuries of competition for authority between popes and kings. By the 19th century, any Papal pretensions to secular power … Read more »The Universal Papacy

Pope Francis in 2015


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 … Read more »Pope Francis in 2015

World Day of Peace: Against Modern Slavery

With Pope Francis 2 December 2014

The following is a guest blog by Steve Townsend, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy to the Holy See In his message for the World Day of Peace (1st  January), Pope Francis has returned to the struggle against modern slavery. His address, entitled “No longer Slaves, but Brothers” highlights the many different faces of slavery, not only those working in fields and factories or in the sex industry under … Read more »World Day of Peace: Against Modern Slavery

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

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 … Read more »Looking back, looking forward: a few highlights