Speculation swirls about Blair's possible visit with Pope Benedict

Speculation swirls about Blair's possible visit with Pope Benedict


Tony Blair will  travel tomorrow to the Vatican to meet the Pope in preparation for his conversion to Roman Catholicism reports the Guardian.

Speculation that the outgoing Prime minister of England will seek admission to the Church has been circulating for quite some time.  In part, the rumors have been fueled by the regular Mass attendance of Blair with his wife and four children. 

Three years ago Fr. Timothy Russ, whose parish includes Chequers, the town near the Blair summer home, disclosed that the Prime Minister had asked him for advice on switching churches.

But Russ, according to the Telegraph, said Blair had "some way to go" on important moral issues because his views on abortion, stem cell research and other issues are at odds with Church teachings.

Amidst the flurry of guesswork, scant mention has been made of where Tony Blair stands on these issues, which remain a significant obstacle to his conversion.

Nevertheless, the Guardian’s sources say that, “Mr. Blair has been readied for this milestone in his spiritual life by a Royal Air Force chaplain, Father John Walsh, who for the past four years has been quietly slipping into Chequers, to say Mass for the Blair family on Saturday evenings.”

More than likely, a visit between the Prime Minister and the Pope will take place since Vatican sources confirmed his visit more than a week ago. Also, yesterday a spokesman for the bishops in England and Wales reportedly said that a meeting had been set in which the environment and Middle East would be discussed by Mr. Blair and the Pope.

One potential obstacle to a meeting with the Pope is the EU summit continuing on into Saturday morning. However, diplomatic sources in London said this would be unlikely.

In what some of the media are reading as a clear sign that Blair will be welcomed into the Church soon, it has been reported that he will leave directly from his audience with Pope Benedict XVI to a lunch hosted by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, at the Venerable English College in Rome. 

By attending the luncheon, Blair would be the first serving prime minister to set foot in the college, which centuries ago trained Roman Catholic priests for a clandestine return to protestant England and, often, an agonizing martyr's death at the hands of their Anglican persecutors.

Mrs. Blair will also be at the lunch, the archbishop's spokesman said. It was not known whether Mrs. Blair would accompany her husband to see the pope.

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