1st August 2016 Holy See
Time of transition
“There can be only one” – not only the tag-line from the “Highlander” movies, but also the rules about Ambassadors accredited to each State. There can only be one official Ambassador in a country at a time. So there is always a gap between one leaving and the next arriving – which is another opportunity for the Deputy Head of Mission to step into their shoes as Chargé d’Affaires a.i. (ad interim). Even once the new Ambassador arrives, they are not accredited until they have presented their credentials to the Head of State, which might take some time. I remember one Embassy where the newly-arrived Ambassador had not presented their credentials by the time of the Queen’s Birthday Party, so the Chargé had to formally greet the guests while the not-quite Ambassador was discreetly in the background.
The time between Ambassadors is always a busy one for the staff of an Embassy, especially in a small operation. Not only do we have to cover the work of the Ambassador, but there is usually redecoration work at their Residence, arranging lists of courtesy calls, checking what the arrangements and timings are for presenting credentials and preparing briefings. The new Ambassador also has to work their way around how the Holy See works and operates through its structure, and it is a key part of our job to be their guides and advisers. There is an advantage in the Ambassadors changing in the summer – the Holy See is quieter (never totally quiet with Pope Francis) and many people are on leave.
An Ambassadorial departure is usually tinged with sadness. We have worked with him or her for up to five years (in the case of Nigel, this is the second time after working together in Bolivia, so he is probably sick to the back teeth of the sight of me!), and have got used to their style. But as with any new boss, there is a keen sense of anticipation about the new Ambassador: how they operate, what is their style, what are their likes and dislikes. So we have to look firmly to the future.
So while we wish Nigel, Sasa and Ben a fond bon voyage, and arrivederci, we are also looking forward to Sally Axworthy and her family arriving. There will be new challenges, but I am confident that the great team that we have in this Embassy will be able to surmount them.