Ambassador Axworthy after Pope Francis’ address to the diplomatic corps  

By Vatican News staff writer

Feb 9 2021

Sally Axworthy, Biritish Ambassador to the Holy See speaks after attending her fourth and final address by Pope Francis to the Holy See’s Diplomatic Corps, highlighting common causes for concern shared with Great Britain, and describing her four years as Ambassador as her mandate comes to an end.

“Crisis” was one of the key words in Pope Francis’ address to the Diplomatic Corps on Monday morning. Ambassador Axworthy, British Ambassador to the Holy See notes that the Pope’s speech was slightly different to his usual ones which “often focus more on international relations”. Instead, she says, this year Pope Francis spoke about the numerous crises that have been affecting our world, such as health, environment, economy, politics and “the crisis of humanity”.

Ambassador Axworthy notes that today’s speech spoke very much about health, because of the coronavirus pandemic, and about education because Pope Francis is “clearly very worried about the effect the pandemic’s having on the young”. 

However, despite the slightly different structure to the speech, Pope Francis spoke about many of the well-known issues, but also mentioned one or two new things, says Ambassador Axworthy. “For example”, she explains, “he mentioned the crisis in Myanmar, and also spoke of the crisis of democracy, as he sees it..

The need to respect free speech, to have a political environment that isn’t too polemicised and also to respect the rule of law”. These, continues Ambassador Axworthy, are all extremely important to the UK and so it was nice to see them mentioned.

Britain and the Holy See

“We share a lot if not most of the Pope’s concerns”, says Ambassador Axworthy. However, the one that stands out is climate change. She explains that this year the UK is hosting the COP26 climate change summit, taking place in Glasgow in November.

The Pope spoke very strongly about climate change, says Ambassador Axworthy, and he mentioned the effect climate change is already having on the most vulnerable, on small island states, but also on famine in Africa. “I think he spoke very powerfully on that, and we are committed to working with the Holy See on climate change in the run-up to COP26”. 

The British Embassy tries to “walk the walk” even in its little embassy in Rome. Ambassador Axworthy describes some of the green initiatives they have implemented in order to “be as green as possible”. We have an electric car, she says, “we try and serve vegetarian or locally sourced food and we use only green cleaning materials.”

Four years as Ambassador

This was the last such occasion the Ambassador will be attending as her four-year mandate comes to an end. She explains that before coming to the Vatican “I read a lot in the press about the scandals engulfing the Vatican: financial scandals, clerical sexual abuse scandals.” Coming here, she continues, “I’ve seen another side to the Holy See”, she describes it as one in which “a lot of people are committed to try to make the world a better place”.

Working with these people and with the Holy See on some of these issues of concern to the UK has been great, says Ambassador Axworthy. Many of these issues were mentioned this morning, she explains: modern slavery, violence against women, climate change, freedom of religion of belief and many more. “All of these issues”, she concludes, “I think together we can make a difference”. – Vatican News