· The new Ambassador of the uk to the Holy See ·
The following is Ambassador Nigel Baker's address to the Holy Father, which he gave at the presentation of his Letters of Credence on Friday morning, 9 September.
It is an honour for me today to present you with my credentials. I carry with me the heartfelt greetings of H.M. The Queen, Her Government and the people of the United Kingdom, in particular in especial remembrance of your historic State Visit to Britain one year ago.
On 15 September 2010, the day before you arrived in the United Kingdom, Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke in The Old Hall of Lincoln’s Inn in London about the importance of values in foreign policy. He noted that “as a democratic country we must have a foreign policy based on values, as an extension of our identity as a society”. And he added that: Our values cannot be defined in purely legal terms. They include our belief in political freedom and economic liberalism, our commitment to helping the poor, to granting protection to refugees and to mitigating the impact of climate change on the most vulnerable. Our attachment to the qualities of tolerance, compassion, generosity, respect for others and the right of families and communities to choose how they live within the law, are also part of our values”.
These values are an indivisible part of the practice of British foreign policy today. But we recognize that they cannot remain as simply a statement of the ideal. We must seek to apply them in reality, working with others whilst respecting difference, recognising our own faults, and ensuring that we understand what is practical and achievable. As Prime Minister David Cameron said to you in Birmingham at the end of your visit last year, we in Britain need to build “a new culture of social responsibility” at home. But we also need to work with others abroad, including the Holy See, on key international issues where we share a common goal and, indeed, common values.
The agenda that we share is global, multifaceted and profoundly important to the world today. It is difficult to do justice to the full extent of the relationship between the Holy See and the United Kingdom in a single speech. But I would like to touch upon three broad themes that encompass the reasons for our close and continuing relationship today, and in the coming years.
Firstly, because we share common values, we need to work together to tackle the existential threats this world faces, of which the two most significant are climate change and arms proliferation.
Climate change is the greatest threat facing mankind today, perhaps ever. You have called in your Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate for “an alliance between the human being and the environment”. As we look ahead to the next Conference of Parties of the un Framework Convention on Climate Change at Durban later this year, and the Rio plus 20 Summit in 2012, it is clear that we and others need to show far greater will and ambition if we are to tackle this extraordinary challenge that threatens the very relationship between man and creation. The British Government is determined to keep this issue at the forefront of global diplomacy, and act as an example to others, for example by committing to reduce our carbon emissions by over 80% by 2050. The Vatican is already well on the way to becoming the world’s first carbon neutral state, and we recognize the important role played by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the global debate.
Arms control, and in particular the elaboration of an international arms trade treaty that can reduce the risks that defence exports will be used to fuel conflict, violate human rights and undermine development, is a crucial area of mutual collaboration. It is a fundamental cornerstone of the construction of a rules-based international edifice that needs to stand the test of time, improve people’s lives and make the world safer for the next generation. We welcome our ongoing conversation with the Holy See as we aim to persuade others of the need to enshrine our wish to make the world a safer place into rules and safeguards that work, in practice and in a sustainable way.
Secondly, we need to come together to encourage dialogue, between faiths and beliefs, promoting peace and understanding. This means above all working, wherever they do not exist or are under threat, for liberty of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom from violence. We see these values threatened in many parts of the globe, but also see people struggling to realize these essential rights, most notably in recent months in the Middle East and North Africa. It is our mutual challenge to help ensure that across the globe those who wish to enjoy and exercise these rights are able to do so, in the present and for the future. Your invitation to faith leaders to meet in Assisi this October reflects the fundamental nature of this challenge for people of all faiths and creeds. Closer to home, we deeply appreciate the Holy See’s continued support for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
Thirdly, we need to work together to fight poverty and disease, with especial focus on the most disadvantaged, and the most vulnerable. The United Kingdom is committed to dedicating 0.7% of its national income to development aid by 2013, for which Prime Minister David Cameron argued the “strong moral case” despite difficult economic circumstances at home. But we are also committed to turning this solidarity into effective action, judging our aid by its outcomes rather than by its aspirations or simply by the level of funds disbursed. We need to be clear eyed and honest about the effectiveness of our international development cooperation as we strive towards the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
The Holy See and the United Kingdom have collaborated closely in recent years in practical development, such as in promoting debt relief, fair trade, and financing for development through the International Finance Facility’s Immunisation Bond and the Advanced Market Commitment. More recently, we have worked together on the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation, including at the 13 June 2011 conference in London, at which Prime Minister David Cameron announced a new commitment of $1.3 billion of British aid to vaccinate over 80 million children over the next five years, and save 1.4 million lives. We welcome the fact that the Apostolic Nuncio in London, Archbishop Mennini, attended the conference and announced the Holy See’s support and a symbolic donation.
We share the conviction that more needs to be done in the common effort towards implementing the mdgs. The United Kingdom is looking carefully at those countries and mdgs most “off track”, and is restructuring its aid accordingly, far example towards key programmes in countries in Africa like Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and issues such as sanitation for the poorest. We believe that it is essential far national governments to work effectively with faiths to fight poverty, and we recognize the leading role of the Catholic Church and Catholic charities across the world, including the Caritas and cidse global networks, in educating, caring far and supporting the most deprived, the most needy, and the most vulnerable.
Your Holiness, these immense global challenges require vision and a readiness to work together on the basis of what you have named “the many care values that we share”. In Westminster Hall you suggested that “the world of reason and the world of faith — the world of secular rationality and of religious belief — need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, far the good of our civilization”. We are ready and willing to enter into that dialogue. In his speech on values in foreign policy, William Hague concluded that: “We will seek to act in a way that appreciates the complexity and dignity of other nations, that champions human rights in a pragmatic and effective way, that inspires others and that strengthens the global rule of law”.
It will be my task over the next few years to work closely with the Holy See to ensure that we can do this together, in harmony and in collaboration. In doing so, I shall bear constantly in mind the Prime Minister’s call at Birmingham Airport at the end of your visit to the United Kingdom far “ever closer co-operation between the UK and the Holy See we redouble our resolve to work far the common good”. My predecessor, Francis Campbell, noted in The Tablet Annual Lecture last year that “taking that forward will be a key task far my successor”. Your Holiness, there is a great deal to do. Rather than a task, it will be my privilege to play a role in building on the platform of our excellent current relations to develop and deepen our bilateral and global relationship in the years ahead.
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