London, Dec. 22 (Reuters): Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has converted from Britains established church, Anglicanism, to Roman Catholicism, the head of Britains Catholics said today.
Blair, whose wife and four children are Catholic, was received into the Catholic church by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-Connor yesterday in a move that had been widely expected after he stepped down from power in June.
I am very glad to welcome Tony Blair into the Catholic church, Murphy-Connor said, adding the conversion took place in private at a chapel at the cardinals residence in central London.
For a long time he has been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family and in recent months he has been following a programme 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.
Blair, now the West Asia peace envoy, had private talks with Pope Benedict at the Vatican in June and his conversion had been predicted.
He has been receiving spiritual preparation for the conversion from Mark Toole, Murphy-Connors private secretary. Blairs spokesman declined to comment on the announcement.
Last month Blair, who was reticent about his faith during his 10 years in power, said religion was hugely important for him.
You know you cant have a religious faith and it be an insignificant aspect because its, its profound about you and about you as a human being, he said in a BBC documentary.
But he added that, while politicians could speak about religious faith in the US, it was difficult to do so in Britain because frankly people do think you are a nutter (crazy).
When once pressed in an interview about his beliefs, his then press spokesman Alastair Campbell famously interrupted and said: We dont do God.
Political commentators have also suggested Blair had been unwilling to make the move while he was still in power because some lawyers believed that 19th century laws could actually prevent a Catholic from becoming a Prime Minister. It was also thought a conversion could have provoked a conflict with his role in appointing Anglican bishops.