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Power prevails over spirituality. The former British prime minister Tony Blair's decision to convert to Roman Catholicism could not have been the result of the kind of epiphany that Saul experienced on the road to Damascus. Mr Blair's conversion is obviously the result of a long process of cogitation. He has been married to a Catholic and his children are all brought up under that faith. It is not unreasonable to suggest that Mr Blair's choice of a career in politics stood in the way of what he obviously sees as the path to spiritual enlightenment. If he had indeed become a Roman Catholic earlier on, instead of waiting six months after resigning from office, he would probably have ruined his chances of becoming prime minister. It is difficult to imagine Her Majesty, the Queen, who is the head of the Church of England, receiving her first minister who is a Roman Catholic. Great Britain has never had a Catholic prime minister ever since that office became important, and ever since Henry VIII inaugurated the split with Rome. So Mr Blair waited till he was out of office. The Pope could wait, but not 10 Downing Street and the weekly visit to Buckingham Palace.

What is important however is that Mr Blair's conversion is part of a growing trend in Great Britain. There is a clear indication that Roman Catholicism is fast becoming the more popular strand of Christianity in Britain. More people are attending Mass on Sundays than evensong in Anglican churches. This is partly the fallout of immigration from eastern European countries and partly the result of a boom in what Anglicans have always snootily called the “low church”. A silent but significant transformation is taking place in the religious configuration of Great Britain. The return of Catholicism as the faith of the majority of people living in Britain may not be entirely bereft of political consequences. The monarch may not have to retrieve her forefathers' title of Defender of the Faith, but she or her successors may have to be prepared to give secular counsel to a prime minister owing spiritual allegiance to Rome.

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