What do governments talk to the Holy See about?
I hope that regular readers of this blog will already know the answer to this question. As Ambassador to the Holy See, I find myself engaging with the Holy See on a wide range of issues covering British foreign policy priorities and Holy See concerns, across our respective global networks. Perhaps a couple of examples from this week, during which we have two senior official visitors in town, will help to illustrate this in greater detail?
First, we have the visit of our Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign Office, Hugh Robertson MP. Mr Robertson will make a number of calls, including on the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for Eastern Churches (which looks after those churches of Eastern rite in communion with Rome), and the Jesuit Refugee Service. Discussion is certain to focus on the situation in Syria, the need to ensure humanitarian access to Syrian refugees especially those trapped inside the country in areas controlled by the Assad regime, and on the difficulties faced by many Christian communities across the region. Holy See insights will inform British policy making in these areas. Our views will in turn, we hope, be listened to with care by our interlocutors.
Second, the Foreign Secretary’s Climate Change Envoy, Sir David King, will call on the Secretariat of State and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace to discuss our respective approaches to one of the great challenges of our time – climate change and man’s relationship with our planet on which we depend to survive. He will explore Holy See thinking before the two successive climate change summits in Lima this year, and Paris in 2015, and as we look ahead to the UN negotiations on the post-2015 global sustainable development goals.
In essence, these conversations will be about peace, dialogue, and respect for creation, priorities highlighted by Pope Francis when he addressed the diplomatic corps in March last year shortly after his inauguration. Like the Pope himself, we want the Holy See’s voice to be heard on these issues, and we shall be encouraging them to speak out more. Such issues are the fundamental stuff of diplomatic engagement and dialogue. They are part and parcel of the British government’s continual conversation with the Holy See.
UK Ambassador to the Holy See