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Pope says private Mass for Blair family

Pope John Paul II has celebrated a special private Mass for Tony Blair and his family in the Vatican.

Cherie Blair, a Catholic, had asked the Holy Father if they could attend an early morning Mass in his apartments at the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.

The Pope, who occasionally invites an intimate group to attend the service, agreed.

Mr Blair an Anglican, sometimes accompanies his wife to Roman Catholic Mass in London, and he joined his wife and children in the Pope's chapel.

It was the first time a serving British prime minister attended a private Mass with the Pope. The honour is rarely granted to political figures.

The Blairs' trip to the Vatican was preceded by concerns about possible tensions between the prime minister and the Pope because of their disagreement over the Iraqi crisis.

John Paul has repeatedly opposed any military action against Iraq, while Mr Blair has been Washington's staunchest ally in insisting that force might be needed to disarm Saddam Hussein.

But the Blair family spent longer at the Vatican over the weekend than had been expected, and their stay included tours of the papal city's museums and Sistine Chapel.

Evening Telegraph (Coventry)

Blairs at Pope's private mass (Daily Telegraph)
Pope appeals to Blair against Iraq war (24/2/03)
Blair set to become a Catholic (24/2/03)
Downing Street Website
Blair in Rome has audience with pope (Deutsche Welle)
The Prime Minister has not made the moral case for war (London Independent)
Pope's plea to Blair (Herald-Sun)
Pope's peace plea to Blair (Sunday Mirror)
Blair in 'prickly' meeting at the Vatican (The Guardian)
Might I just have a quiet word? (The Times)
Politicians beating path to Vatican on Iraq war (International Herald Tribunal)
Full steam ahead: Blair disregards Pope's plea
Pope Urges Blair to Avert Tragedy of War (Reuters)

25 Feb 2003