Vatican ready to welcome Ann Widdecombe as ambassador

There is no reason why the Holy See should reject Ann Widdecombe as Britain's next ambassador (Photo: PA)

The appointment of Britain’s next ambassador to the Holy See is thought to be imminent, according to sources here in Rome.

At the end of June, the Sunday Telegraph reported that the former Conservative MP, Ann Widdecombe, had been tapped for the post, and that William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, had endorsed the nomination.

The Vatican still needs to give its agrément, but sources say that other persons may also be under consideration and that Miss Widdecombe’s candidacy is not yet certain.

Even so, there appear to be no grounds for the Holy See to reject her nomination. Usually, the Vatican does so for exceptional circumstances, for instance if the candidate is a divorced and remarried Catholic or living with a same-sex partner.

Sources say it is important that confirmation be made very soon “in organisational terms” so that officials can get on with business.

The current ambassador, Francis Campbell, is due to leave the post in October after the papal visit to Britain. His future plans are so far unclear, although it’s thought that he may follow standard FCO procedure and return to London for a couple of years before taking up another posting. He was due to leave the post two years ago but had his tenure extended.

A trained diplomat and Tony Blair’s former Downing Street advisor on Europe, Campbell, 39, was the first Catholic to become Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See since the Reformation.

Many credit him for laying the groundwork for the upcoming papal visit.

An announcement on his replacement is most likely before the Vatican goes on summer recess at the beginning of August, but could also be made around the time of the papal visit in September.