Britain's Blair Denies Plans To Convert To Catholicism

     LONDON (CWN) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair's office on Wednesday denied media reports that he might convert to Catholicism because he had been seen attending Mass alone.

      The prime minister's wife Cheri is a Catholic and he has regularly attended Mass with her and their children. The British news agency Press Association reported recently that Blair has been seen attending Mass alone at Westminster Cathedral on several occasions since Christmas. An official spokesman for Blair said the prime minister us not converting from Anglicanism, the official religion of Britain, and added that his religious beliefs are a private matter.

      The media report quoted one observer as saying Blair's attendance at Mass created a "serious constitutional awkwardness," and he questioned whether Blair's religious affiliation could influence the Northern Ireland peace process. There is no constitutional barrier to a prime minister being a Catholic, though there hasn't been one since the early 18th century, said constitutional expert Lord St. John of Fawsley. By law, the monarch must be a Protestant. A leader of the Protestant UK Unionist Party in Northern Ireland said that Blair's private religious beliefs would have no bearing on the course of peace talks.

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March 6-8, 1998 volume 9, no. 47         DAILY CATHOLIC