2014-12-03 15:06:00

British ambassador on history of relations with Holy See

(Vatican Radio) On Wednesday the Holy See and the British government celebrate one hundred years since the re-establishment of their diplomatic relations. The appointment, in December 2014, of an experienced British diplomat, Sir Henry Howard, to head a “special mission to His Holiness” Pope Benedict XV, came after nearly three and a half centuries of bitter division between Rome and the British crown.

To look back at this long history of relations and to discuss priorities shared by his government and the Holy See today, Philippa Hitchen sat down with Britain’s ambassador to the Vatican Nigel Baker….


“The Embassy to the Holy See is, in a sense, the oldest in our network because the Crown sent its first permanent envoy overseas to the papal court in 1479, so we’re the dean of the British diplomatic network…..but unfortunately then there was the hiatus of the Reformation…..not to say that Britain and the Holy See didn’t talk to each other, there were all sorts of unofficial envoys, especially during the Napoleonic wars…..

You could say the search for peace brought Britain and the Holy See together…..the UK was very aware that Pope Benedict XV was very active in trying to bring the warring parties to the table….

I think there was nervousness within the Church of England in 1914 when the diplomatic mission was established…….but by the time we got to the full upgrade (in relations) in 1982 there was no objection…..the key thing was the Second Vatican Council and its strong ecumenical drive and the first official visit of an Archbishop of Canterbury to Rome….helped to dissolve many of those obstacles….

We’ve now had two papal visits in 1982 and 2010….so I think now we can genuinely celebrate this centenary….not only in a diplomatic way but also in an ecumenical way….”

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