Today I have the honour of leading the largest ministerial delegation from the United Kingdom to the Vatican – our reciprocal visit following the momentous State Visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in September 2010.
We will be celebrating the decision Margaret Thatcher took 30 years ago to restore full diplomatic relations between our countries. The relationship between the UK and the Holy See is our oldest diplomatic relationship, first established in 1479. And today, thanks to the great success of the Pope's visit, it is one of the strongest too.
But this trip is about more than a Valentine's Day "love in" with our Catholic neighbours. This is about recognising the deep and intrinsic role of faith here in Britain and overseas. For a number of years I have been saying that we need to have a better understanding of faith in our country. Why? Because I profoundly believe that faith has a vital and important role to play in modern society. But mistakenly, faith has been neglected, undermined – and yes, even attacked – by governments in recent years.