Blair takes communion, converts to Catholicism

Move comes after speculation that Blair, currently serving as Quartet's Mideast envoy, would convert from Anglican faith after retiring as PM.

blair 88 (photo credit: )
blair 88
(photo credit: )
Just days before Christmas, former British prime minister Tony Blair converted to Roman Catholicism, his official spokesman confirmed on Saturday. The move came after speculation that Blair, 54, who is currently serving as the Quartet envoy to the Middle East, would convert from his Anglican faith after leaving office. Blair was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor during Mass at the Archbishop's House in Westminster in central London on Friday night. "I am very glad to welcome Tony Blair into the Catholic Church," Murphy-O'Connor said. "For a long time he has been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family, and in recent months he has been following a program 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," he added. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Anglican leader, wished Blair well. "A great Catholic writer of the last century said that the only reason for moving from one Christian family to another was to deepen one's relationship with God," he said. "I pray that this will be the result of Tony Blair's decision in his personal life." Blair's wife Cherie is already a practicing Roman Catholic, and the couple's four children have attended Catholic schools. Blair met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in June. Earlier this year, Blair told the BBC that although his faith had been "hugely important" to his premiership, he had avoided talking about his religious views while in office for fear of being labeled "a nutter." In England's last census, 72 percent of the population identified themselves as Christian. Many are Anglicans affiliated with the Church of England, which was created by royal proclamation during the 16th century after King Henry VIII - who married six times - broke ties with the Roman Catholic Church in a dispute over divorce. The Church of England has said that less than 10 percent of its members are regular churchgoers. AP contributed to this report.