Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair told L’Osservatore Romano this week that religion, and concretely the Catholic Church, as “a crucial role in the development” of nations and is always oriented towards achieving the common good.
The son of a militant atheist and a Protestant mother, Blair recounted his path to conversion and said it began long ago when he met his wife. “The faith has always been an important part of our life as a family,” he said.
After referring to the differences in political life between Great Britain and the United States—where it is almost obligatory to refer to God in politics—Blair said he “shares completely everything that the Holy Father writes” in his recent encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate,” saying the letter should be “read and re-read.”
“I believe religion has a central and unique role within society and for its development. Think for example of the way in which we use technology. But it is true that a conflict exists, because many people want to remove religion from the public sphere,” Blair continued.
Although he has yet to reconcile his views on abortion and homosexual unions with the Church, Blair said he thinks that “religion has an important role. It is does not mean an end to debates and to opposition. On the contrary, these will probably continue in many issues about which the Church will probably be on one side and political leaders on the other. But I do not believe that this is the real issue: the key issue is that faith has the full right to enter into this space and to speak. It should not be silent,” he said.
For this reason, he said, it is important not only that things be resolved in a just way, but also that the voice of the faith is not absent from public debate (think of issues such as justice and solidarity between peoples and nations).”
“Faith has a unique role,” the former prime minister asserted. “The Catholic Church follows the truth of God and I think that the Pope strives so hard to make it understood that this proclamation is a Christian obligation,” he added.
It is true that “sometimes this can enter into conflict with the political world and I have experiences of that as a political leader. Nevertheless, it is extremely important that this religious aspect exists; it is not a coincidence that the Pope writes that humanism without God is inhumane,” Blair stated.
“I think that thus the Pope seeks to make it clear that human actions and human reason will always be limited if they are not permeated by the faith, without which, they can even become dangerous,” he warned.
Referring to the centrality of the family in society, and commenting on his own experience as the father of three children, Blair said the Church has an important role to play in this area. “It is true that families have their problems, their challenges, and this is not going to end. But I have always thought that the guidance of the Church in family matters is useful,” he said.