Rome, Italy, Apr 9, 2013 / 09:45 am
After Pope Francis praised the Christian ethics of the late Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the British ambassador to the Holy See emphasized her strong defense of family values.
"Lady Thatcher was a staunch champion of the family," said Vatican ambassador Nigel Baker.
"She will be remembered by people of faith in Britain as a leader with conviction, passion, determination and decisiveness, qualities that continue to be those most needed in political and public leadership today," he told CNA on April 9.
Pope Francis sent a message on April 9 to British Prime Minister David Cameron offering his condolences on the death of the "Iron Lady."
The Holy Father said he was saddened to hear of her death and recalled with appreciation the Christian values that "underpinned her commitment to public service and to the promotion of freedom among the family of nations."
Baker said it is "worth recalling that she recited the Prayer of St. Francis when she arrived at Downing Street on her first day in office."
"Lady Thatcher is recalled by many as a conviction politician, who was not afraid to do what was unpopular if she believed it was right," he stated.
Baker also said he believes that Thatcher and Blessed John Paul II both contributed to the downfall of communism and that she "played a central role in the reopening of Central and Eastern Europe to freedom."
"Pope John Paul II was a spiritual leader, Lady Thatcher a stateswoman, but both were adamant that totalitarian communism was an aberration in the history of Europe, and worked tirelessly for the same goal," Baker said.
"Her personal impact at the time on people in countries like Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary was enormous and her personal engagement with Mikhail Gorbachev was a key step towards the end of the Cold War," he remarked.
The British ambassador recalled the first years of his diplomatic career he spent in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s.
"Two personalities stood out, Pope John Paul II and Margaret Thatcher," he said.
"Market traders in Budapest remembered vividly her visit there in the 1980s, when she delighted them by buying fruit and vegetables with her own money, negotiating over the price," said Baker.
He explained that she garnered immense respect amongst ordinary people across the region.
The ambassador also recalled that U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday, "Margaret Thatcher didn't just lead our country, she saved our country."
When Baker was in school in London during the late 1970s and the Winter of Discontent, he remembered it as a time when "our leaders appeared to be in despair, with no solutions and then this extraordinary woman came along, and shook the country awake."
"Not everyone agreed at the time, or agree now, with her strong medicine for the country's ills.
"But as a young man with a keen sense of history, I did believe that Britain was finally back on track, and Margaret Thatcher had played a crucial role in putting us there," Baker commented.