Nigel Baker

Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See

16th February 2012 Rome, Holy See, Italy

British Ministers visit the Holy See

A very intensive 24 hours this week saw the strongest ever delegation of ministers from the United Kingdom – 7 in total, including 4 Cabinet Ministers – paying an official visit to the Holy See.

As Baroness Warsi, the leader of the delegation, noted in her speech at the official dinner hosted by Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone on 14 February, some might misinterpret the fact that the visit was taking place on St Valentine’s Day!As it was, the visit had little to do with sentiment (though the delegation was delighted to be here) and more to do with the hard reality of our global interests and the way we can and should interact through our extensive global networks.

The Delegation of Ministers from the Government of the United Kingdom pictured in St Peter's Square, marking the official start of the two-days visit to the Holy See. The Most Revd Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, accompanied the Delegation.
The Delegation of Ministers from the Government of the United Kingdom pictured in St Peter's Square, marking the official start of the two-days visit to the Holy See. The Most Revd Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, accompanied the Delegation.

That was very much the theme of a full morning of talks in the Secretariat of State on 15 February. Not surprisingly, and as the joint communiqué published afterwards attests, we found that there is a broad agenda of work to conduct together. From climate change to tackling small arms and conventional weapons proliferation, from our common concern over the situation in the Horn of Africa (we discussed our aspirations for the London Somalia Conference on 23 February), to sharing analysis of the Middle East, there was a great deal to talk about.

We also discussed more domestic issues – the positive role that the Catholic Church, alongside other faith communities, can play in Northern Ireland, or the engagement of faith communities in the government’s Big Society programme (for example through encouraging voluntarism or work in education) in Scotland, England and Wales.

We want to explore how we can strengthen our contacts between British embassies and Apostolic Nunciaturas in third countries, and ensure a greater flow of official visits at other levels between London and Rome, maintaining the rhythm of our conversations across the spectrum of our bilateral engagement.

During the delegation’s audience with Pope Benedict XVI, Baroness Warsi delivered a message from The Queen in which Her Majesty expressed her pleasure that the visit was building in a concrete way on His Holiness’s successful State Visit to Britain in 2010. There is certainly plenty for me and my small team to do.

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About Nigel Baker

Nigel is currently British Ambassador to the Holy See. 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).

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provides a window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The issues Nigel has written about include: Women at the Holy See, British Parliamentarians’ visit to the Holy See, Diplomacy and Faith and the phenomenon of World Youth Day.

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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