Relations between the Vatican and Britain will be unaffected by the latter’s decision to leave the European Union, the UK’s ambassador to the Holy See has said.
Nigel Baker explained that the EU has its fair share of critics within the Vatican, including Pope Francis. The Holy See has widely been seen as in favour of Britain remaining within the EU: Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s Foreign Minister equivalent, told ITV news in January “better in than out.”
Ambassador Baker said that while it was fair to “extrapolate” from those remarks although there were a range of opinions within the Roman Curia.
“The Holy See is capable of taking a far broader view which fits in with its 2,000 year history, with its historical perspective,” the Ambassador told The Tablet. “It’s seen Europe pre-EU and it can contemplate Europe with Britain not in the EU.”
He stressed, however, that the Vatican view the EU has a peace project and will be looking for assurances “that the British people’s decision won't threaten Europe’s peace and stability.”
Ambassador Baker, who is leaving his post this summer, pointed to the Pope’s speech on Europe given after receiving the Charlemagne prize in May where Francis called on the continent’s leaders to rediscover the values of its founders.
“He [the Pope] too has been quite critical of aspects of the EU,” the ambassador explained. “But he’s also made the point that Europe, and what Europe stands for is not confined to the EU and its institutions. There are European countries that are not members of the EU: there’s European history, its values, the history of faith in Europe which is not encapsulated wholly or even partially within the EU and its institutions.”
On the plane coming back from Armenia on Sunday the Pope said that “Brexit” shows that Europe had to look for a new union because there is something wrong with the current set-up. "There is something that's not working in this massive, heavy union," Francis said. "But let's not throw the baby out with the bath water."
On the plane out to Armenia on Friday he told reporters that the decision to exit the European Union was the will of the (British) people that would require “ a great responsibility” to ensure the well being of people and European co-operation.
A full version of the interview with the ambassador will appear in next week's Tablet