Nigel Baker

Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See

9th November 2012 Holy See

The 105th Archbishop of Canterbury

The Right Reverend Justin Welby. Photo: ©

Observers in Rome may have found the process for the appointment of the new Archbishop of Canterbury rather strange. It is the Crown Nominations Commission which nominates two candidates to present to the Prime Minister, who then advises The Queen on the appointment. Her Majesty as Supreme Governor of The Church of England then gives her approval. This formal process has been preceded by several months of consultations, including lay and religious figures (of all faiths, including Catholics, not just Anglicans), the wider global Anglican Communion, and of course the members of Canterbury diocese itself.

In a sense, this process reflects the multiple role played by any Archbishop of Canterbury. He is the spiritual head of The Church of England. But he is also the global leader of the Anglican communion, representing 77 million people worldwide. He plays a public and constitutional role as the head of the Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords in Parliament. And he is often in demand from the UK-based and world media for comment on British and global public affairs, on issues from the impact of the economic crisis to the situation of Christians in Palestine. And he is one of the principal leaders of the Christian and world faith communities. Only last month, alongside Pope Benedict XVI and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Dr Williams welcomed in the Year of Faith on the steps of St Peter’s Basilica.

So an Archbishop of Canterbury requires many qualities. He must be a man of faith. But also a man of this world. The new Archbishop of Canterbury, The Right Reverend Justin Welby, currently Lord Bishop of Durham, will need all his experience as a former business manager, parish priest, cathedral Dean and diocesan Bishop in his new and difficult role. Bishop Welby is an expert in conflict resolution, and has particular knowledge of Africa, especially Nigeria. He has a CV that will serve him well in the years ahead.

This Embassy wishes him well. The relationship between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches is not our direct business. But that between the Holy See and Lambeth Palace, in all its complex manifestations, across the Catholic and Anglican global networks, certainly is. Together with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s own Rome-based representative to the Holy See (and Director of the Anglican Centre), Canon David Richardson, we look forward to helping Bishop Welby further the warm and productive relationship between Rome and Canterbury, itself an important element in the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Holy See, as he takes up his new role in the New Year.

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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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