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Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

LONDON (Reuters) - Former prime minister Tony Blair has converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism, the head of Britain's Catholics said on Saturday.

Blair, whose wife and four children are Catholic, was received into the Catholic Church by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor on Friday in a move that had been widely expected after he stepped down from power in June.

"I am very glad to welcome Tony Blair into the Catholic Church," Murphy-O'Connor said in a statement, adding the conversion took place in private at a chapel at the cardinal's residence in central London.

"For a long time he has been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family and in recent months he has been following a programme of formation to prepare for his reception into full communion.

"My prayers are with him, his wife and family at this joyful moment in their journey of faith together."

Blair, now the Middle East peace envoy, had private talks with Pope Benedict at the Vatican in June and his conversion had been predicted.

He has been receiving spiritual preparation for the conversion from Mark O'Toole, Murphy-O'Connor's private secretary. Blair's spokesman declined to comment on the announcement, saying it was a private matter.

Last month Blair, who was reticent about his faith during his 10 years in power, said religion was "hugely important" for him.

"You know you can't have a religious faith and it be an insignificant aspect because it's, it's profound about you and about you as a human being," he said in a BBC documentary.

But he added that, while politicians could speak about religious faith in the United States, it was difficult to do so in Britain because "frankly people do think you are a nutter (crazy)".

When once pressed in an interview about his beliefs, his then press spokesman Alastair Campbell famously interrupted and said: "We don't do God."

Political commentators have also suggested Blair had been unwilling to make the move while he was still in power because some lawyers believed that 19th century laws could actually prevent a Catholic from becoming prime minister.

It was also thought a conversion could have provoked a conflict with his role in appointing Anglican bishops and he might have also felt the need to tread carefully while mediating in the Northern Ireland peace process between the province's Catholic and Protestant communities.

European Union Trade Commissioner and political confidant Peter Mandelson said Blair was "not an exhibitionist" about religion but was "a man who takes a Bible with him wherever he goes and last thing at night he will read from the Bible".

However Ann Widdecombe, an opposition Conservative member of parliament who converted to Catholicism herself, said Blair would have had to have changed his mind on a number of issues such as abortion and civil partnerships for gay couples.

"If you look at Tony Blair's voting record in the House of Commons, he's gone against church teaching on more than one occasion on things for example like abortion," she told the BBC.

Re: Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

Seems to be an in thing to do these days.

I don't understand what is so wrong with the CofE church. Whenever I go to a CofE church people are really warm and welcoming and everything seems so approachable and organised. Is there such a difference between the two religions? What is it about CofE that makes so many turn atheist or simply drift away from faith? The main difference that I know of (other than women & married priests) is that the CofE does not believe in confession. You'd think that a more progressive church should be a more successful church would you not?

Maybe this is just my personal experience, but one thing I have noticed is that many people who are very successful also have a strong faith. It's as if it gives them the strength and drive to do well.

Re: Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

Related news

Catholicism leads religion in UK

LONDON (Reuters) - Former prime minister Tony Blair's conversion to Catholicism means he is now a member of the most popular Christian denomination in Britain, according to religious research published on Sunday.

Despite England's official break with the pope in Rome during Henry VIII's reign more than 400 years ago, making Anglicanism and the Church of England dominant, Catholicism is now the most practiced faith in the land.

A survey by the group Christian Research published in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper showed that around 862,000 worshippers attended Catholic Mass each week in 2006, exceeding the 852,000 who went to Church of England services.

Attendance at Anglican services has almost halved over the past 40 years as the country has grown steadily more secular, the research showed, with only Pentecostalism showing any rise in popularity among Christian denominations.

While attendance figures for both Catholic and Anglican services are declining, Catholic numbers are slipping by a lesser degree as new migrants arrive from east Europe and parts of Africa, boosting Catholic congregations.

"When a former prime minister becomes a Catholic, that must be a sign that Catholicism really has come in from the cold in this country," Catherine Pepinster, the editor of Catholic weekly The Tablet, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

"I would hope that my fellow Catholics will welcome Tony Blair into the Church as they welcome other converts."

Blair, now a Middle East peace envoy, is not the first high-profile Briton to convert to Catholicism.

The author Evelyn Waugh, the son of an Anglican churchman, converted in the 1930s, and novelist Graham Greene was a noted convert, although his books often explored doubts over faith.

Blair's conversion was long expected -- his wife and four children are practicing Catholics -- but it has not come without a degree of criticism.

While in office, he frequently championed stem-cell research, was in support of civil partnerships for gay couples and has voted in favour of abortion, all issues on which the Catholic faithful hold strong positions.

Politicians, including some who have converted themselves, didn't question the sincerity of the conversion, made in a private ceremony on Friday, but wondered what it said about the stances he had taken on issues while in office.

Mostly though, the reaction was muted.

"In the 19th century when someone 'poped' it caused great scandal," wrote the Right Reverend Richard Harries, a former bishop of Oxford, in the Observer newspaper.

"But in recent decades a fundamental shift has taken place ... If someone shifts their allegiance, well, as Jesus said, 'there are many dwelling places in my father's house'."

Re: Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

What are your views on this Angela?

Re: Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

I'm not in favour of women or gay priests or the generally liberal PC attitudes of the Church of England. Overall, if you're a true Christian, the more sensible choice is the Catholic church. I would go further and suggest that the Church of England rejoin the Vatican church.

Re: Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

The Catholic Church should also do something to allow for this reunification. Starting with allowing married Priests. I'd like to see married Catholic Priests throughout the world.

Re: Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

Maybe this is just my personal experience, but one thing I have noticed is that many people who are very successful also have a strong faith. It's as if it gives them the strength and drive to do well.

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An interesting point.

Re: Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

I agree with married priests but this would mean the church paying to support families.

I also see nothing wrong with women priests. Don't understand why that is wrong.

Re: Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

In England I was happy to be a catholic. In Poland I wouldn't mind if someone came along and set up an Anglican church near me.

The Polish Catholic Church doesn't feel part of the same church. A bunch of anti-Christian weirdos and hypocrites at the top sees to that. The Polish bishops should be sacked, the lot of them. Bungling, backward-looking and happy to countenance political extremism, racism and child-molesting as appropriate lifestyle choices. Very similar to the weirdo, anti-Christian catholic church in Ireland of a few years ago.

And who allows all that? Why a series of hand-wringing buffoons in the Vatican, of course! Including John Paul II. He only stood out as a good Pope because all the rest had been utterly hopeless for centuries.

"Reject Satan and all his works" I was asked to sign up to - don't make me laugh ...

Re: Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

So what has changed in Ireland?

I didn't really understand what was so special about religion until I went to Poland in 1980 and attended church there at the height of solidarity. I've noticed you don't get that atmosphere there now.

Personally I like the Marian fathers in the UK. They may have their financial scandals but it is a pleasure to attend their churches. I don't think they exist in Poland.

Based on what you say, the church is Poland is most likely a victim of its own success.