Blair in first private audience with Pope Benedict

British Prime Minister Tony Blair met with Benedict XVI for the first time since the pontiff's election last year to discuss terrorism, poverty and inter-religious dialogue.

The Observer reports that Tony Blair was led by Swiss Guards in colourful costumes and plumed hats into Pope Benedict's study at the Vatican on the weekend for an audience described as "cordial and constructive."

The Prime Minister's wife, Cherie, and their children were waiting nearby and were also received by the Pope after the private part of the audience ended.

The Vatican said the two leaders discussed a wide range of issues, including the importance of dialogue between faiths as a means of tackling terrorism.

They explored "the contribution which common values between religions can give to dialogue, in particular with moderate Islam, on the themes of solidarity and peace", according to the papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

Also discussed was the problem of poverty in Africa and the need for the international community to work towards peaceful coexistence and development in the region.

The possibility of the Pope making an official visit to Britain, the subject of much speculation in the media, appears to have been mooted in general terms. Pope Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, made a visit in 1982 and there is already an open invitation for Pope Benedict to visit Britain.

Blair's visit to the Vatican has inevitably raised fresh speculation about whether he is thinking of converting to the Catholic faith. He is an Anglican, but his wife Cherie is Roman Catholic and their children have been brought up in the faith.

Face to faith: Blair pays respects in first private audience with the Pope (The Observer 4/6/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
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5 Jun 2006