Safeguarding freedom of religion or belief is "a top human rights priority" for the British Government, Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay of St Johns said.
She was in the Vatican on Wednesday to mark the centenary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and the Holy See.
Interviewed on Vatican Radio, she recalled her speech at the launch of a report by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need into religious persecution around the world. One of a number of speakers at last month's launch, she said that global religious freedom was “in a period of serious decline” and acknowledged a “very real danger that Christianity may become extinct” in the Middle East due to persecution.
The peer was due to meet Vatican officials to discuss issues including the persecution of Christians and modern slavery.
She was also attend a Mass in the evening at St Paul’s Outside the Walls to mark the re-establishment of relations, which was to be celebrated by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State. Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols was due to attend.
Speaking before the visit, she said: “I am delighted to represent Her Majesty’s Government on in this important anniversary. Relations between the United Kingdom and the Holy See have developed enormously since 1914.”
“The visit of Benedict XVI to the UK in 2010 and HM The Queen’s historic meeting with Pope Francis in April this year are the most recent highlights. The visit is an important occasion to further strengthen the UK’s engagement with the Holy See on a range of issues of mutual concern, and to consider ways in which our networks might work more closely together, from human trafficking and freedom of religion and beliefe, to wider human rights issues and international development."