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Pope has "frank" conversation with Tony Blair June 25, 2007

During a June 23 audience with outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Pope Benedict XVI had some candid criticism of the British leader's term in office.

After the Pope's meeting with Blair-- who was accompanied to the Vatican by his wife Cherie and by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster-- the Vatican press office indicated that the conversation had included a "frank discussion of the international situation, including certain particularly delicate questions such as the conflict in the Middle East and the future of the European Union in the wake of the Brussels summit." London media reports indicated that the Pope had been critical of the British leader's stands on the war in Iraq, stem-cell research, and legal recognition of same-sex unions.

The indications of an unusually blunt conversation between the Pope and the Prime Minister took on special interest in light of the persistent speculation that Blair plans to enter the Catholic Church after resigning his government leadership post. However there was no public indication that the topic of Blair's possible conversion was raised directly during the June 23 audience.

Pope Benedict offered his best wishes to the outgoing leader, the Vatican said, noting with satisfaction that Blair has shown an interest in continuing to work as in the international arena. The Vatican statement noted that Blair has shown a special interest in working for peace in the Middle East and in promoting inter-religious dialogue. US President George W. Bush is reportedly pushing for the appointment of Blair as a special international envoy to the Middle East.

After his meeting with the Holy Father, Prime Minister Blair-- as is customary for a government leader-- met separately with the Cardinal Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Tony Blair will officially resign as prime minister on June 27, leaving the government leadership in the hands of his current labor minister, Gordon Brown.

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