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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pope Rebukes Blair

On his record, Benedict XVI is a man who does not mince words. Mr Blair has discovered this.

The Times reports that the Pope spoke of the need "for “true” conversions to Catholicism a day after rebuking Tony Blair over the war in Iraq and legislation passed during his years in power on abortion, gay adoption, same-sex marriage and stem-cell research.

The Vatican said that there had been a “frank exchange” on “delicate subjects” during Saturday’s meeting between Benedict XVI and Mr Blair, who is thought to be close to converting to Catholicism. Vatican sources said that the formula used was “the nearest the Vatican comes to referring to a row without using the word”.

Yesterday, as he addressed English-speaking pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, the Pope said: “Today, as the Church celebrates the birth of St John the Baptist, let us ask for the gift of true conversion and growth in holiness, so that our lives will prepare a way for the Lord and hasten the coming of His Kingdom.”

This could be read as a papal reminder of the need for those considering conversion — even a world figure like Mr Blair — to do so away from publicity.

The Pope wished Mr Blair well on his plans to work for Middle East peace and inter-faith dialogue. The two met privately for 25 minutes and then — in an unusual gesture — were joined by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

The Papal statement also referred to the Pope’s disappointment over Mr Blair’s failure to back the Vatican’s campaign to have a reference to Europe’s Christian roots and values inserted into the EU constitution. "