Catholic Chosen as British Envoy to Holy See

Francis Campbell of Northern Ireland

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ROME, NOV. 15, 2005 ( Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II appointed Francis Campbell ambassador of the United Kingdom to the Holy See, the first Catholic named to the post since Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1534.

At 35, Campbell will be the youngest UK ambassador. He is the first Irish Catholic to be elevated to ambassador since the republic of Ireland was granted independence in 1921.

Born in Northern Ireland, he was educated at Queens University Belfast; Trinity College Dublin; Katholieke University Leuven, Belgium; and the University of Pennsylvania. Campbell entered the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in 1997.

In 2001 was named private secretary to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. From 2003 to 2005, Campbell served in the British Embassy in Rome. His new appointment was announced today.

In a statement, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster described Campbell as «an experienced diplomat who has worked with the prime minister» who was also «familiar with the language and the workings of the Catholic Church.»

Relations between the United Kingdom and the Holy See were restored in 1914 after a break of 350 years. An apostolic delegate was appointed in 1938 to represent the Holy See in Great Britain. Full diplomatic relations were restored in 1982 prior to Pope John Paul II’s visit to Britain.

Ever since a Foreign Office memo in 1917 which said Britain’s Vatican representative «should not be filled with an unreasoning awe of the Pope,» the British ambassador has been a Protestant, with a Catholic as deputy, according to the director for public affairs of the archbishop of Westminster. This continued after 1982, when the post was raised to ambassadorial status.

The UK Foreign Office made clear recently, however, that there was no bar to a Catholic taking the post.

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