Blair Reveals His Close Links with Catholic Church

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE DOUGHTY

THE depth and closeness of Tony Blair's links to the Roman Catholic Church were revealed yesterday.

The Prime Minister's aides confirmed he has attended mass at Westminster Cathedral, the church's British HQ, on his own.

His visit was taken as firm evidence that he feels his spiritual home is the Catholic Church, and not the Church of England over which he holds wide powers.

In the past, Mr Blair's regular worship in Catholic churches has been linked to his wish to be with his wife Cherie and their children.

Mrs Blair was born a Catholic and the youngsters are being brought up in the faith.

His decision to attend Catholic worship alone is seen as the clearest indication that he does not hold the nation's established Anglican faith close to his heart.

There was renewed speculation last heard two years ago when Mr Blair was revealed to have been taking the eucharist, the most sacred Christian rite, with his family in a Catholic church - that he may one day wish to join the Roman faith.

Yesterday, Downing Street denied he was considering conversion. His spokesman added: 'Where the Prime Minister goes is a matter for him and his family, nobody else.' However, his beliefs and inclinations are of profound importance for the Church of England, politically sensitive, and could pose unprecedented constitutional questions.

In particular, there were fears that news of his interest in Catholicism might have a bearing on the Irish peace talks, where there is a risk of offending religious sensibilities.

Clauses in the 1829 Emancipation Act prevent any Catholic adviser to the monarch from holding civil or military office. Some experts believe the law might apply to a Premier.

Mr Blair has long been known to worship at St Joan of Arc church in Highbury, North London, with his

family. …