Catholic World News News Feature
Blair converts; Catholicism now England's top faith December 24, 2007
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was received into the Catholic Church on December 21 by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.
Blair had regularly attended Mass with his wife Cherie and their children. His interest in Catholicism had been evident for years, and rumors of his impending conversion flared in June 2007, when he met privately with Pope Benedict XVI just before stepping down from his leadership post.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, issued a statement that the former prime minister "has my prayers and good wishes as he takes this step in his Christian pilgrimage." Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said that the Holy See treated the conversion as "good news that we welcome with respect."
Blair's entry into the Catholic Church came just as the London Dail Telegraph confirmed that Catholics now outnumber Anglicans among England's regular worshippers. The Telegraph cited a survey that showed 861,000 Catholics attending Sunday Mass in England, and only 852,000 attending Anglican services.
Catholic Mass attendance in England has actually fallen sharply in the past generation. In the early 1960s there were typically over 2 million English Catholics at Mass each Sunday. But immigration of Catholics from other lands has slowed the decline in attendance figures, the Telegraph reports, while the level of practice among Anglicans has continued to plummet.