By Francesca Merlo
The United Kingdom’s new Ambassador to the Holy See has over 30 years of experience in service in what was the Foreign Office and is now the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.
Chris Trott’s career began in Asia where he served in Burma, Japan and Afghanistan before serving in a number of African nations as well as “a short stint” in the South Pacific and the Solomon Islands, which he describes as “an unusual posting”.
Ambassador Trott is confident that he is coming into this new role “having spent a lot of time thinking about the issues we know concern the Holy Father very much”. Some of those issues being “development, humanitarian crises, conflict in Africa” and given his last posting in South Sudan, Ambassador Trott has “lots of experience” in this area.
From new to old
Effectively, he says, “he has gone from the newest country in the world to what you could argue is the oldest country in the world” an extraordinary contrast, he adds.
“But the work is similar to an extent, in that you're talking about issues that are crucially important to people's lives, globally,” he says.
Bringin experience from South Sudan
Pope Francis has repeatedly appealed for South Sudan tirelessly pushing for peace in the nation, even personally hosting its warring leaders in the Vatican two years ago.
Ambassador Chris Trott goes on to describe some of the main topics he aims to focus on during his mandate as British Ambassador to the Holy See. The priority, at the moment, for him and his entire team, is climate. This is, of course, ahead of COP26, the climate conference coming up in Glasgow in November – which Pope Francis hopes, he said, he will be attending.
Once that is over, there will be “a much broader discussion on issues of concern to the Holy Father and of concern to the Vatican, as well as on issues of concern to my government”, says Ambassador Trott.
He notes that the Vatican has an extraordinary network of information gathering and has an extraordinary network of collaborators including the “Solidarity with South Sudan” network run by religious.
The Vatican’s networks are phenomenal, stresses Ambassador Trott. “I mean, no government has sub-offices in every parish in every country, which the Vatican does”, and that makes for “a real win-win [scenario] for us because, as a government we can provide funding to organisations to do their work on the ground, but we can't reach down into local Communities.”
“We work very closely with the churches in South Sudan both on the peace process and on conflict resolution. Conflict can be resolved by governments talking to governments, and politicians talking to politicians, but you also need communities that have been fighting each other to start talking to each other, and that needs to happen on the ground. That can only be done by people who understand local conditions, and often that is the Church. We then partner with the churches to deliver conflict resolution at grassroots level whilst we are having conversations in hotels in Juba at the national level. The hope is always that those work together,” he explains..
In fact, he continues, “I think we actually make a real difference on the ground”.
Ambassador Trott says his horizons have been broadened 190 times, “if that's how many countries there are in the world”, by coming here.
“There is huge potential for us”, he says, “the British government works very well with the Vatican and with the network that the Vatican has in development across the globe.
“I know that these are things that matter to the Holy Father,” the Ambassador concludes, “that is why it is such a pleasure to be here and to be able to be work on things that matter to him as well as to the Vatican as a whole.”