Friday, August 28, 2009

Conversion felt like 'coming home'

Cherie drove me to become Catholic, reveals Tony Blair, claiming conversion felt like 'coming home'

By Nick Pisa
Last updated at 11:56 AM on 28th August 2009

Tony Blair's conversion to Catholicism was spurred by his wife.

Speaking for the first time about his conversion two years ago, the former prime minister said wife Cherie Blair won the toss when they decided where to go to Mass.

He told a religious conference in Italy: 'Frankly this all began with my wife.

'I began to go to Mass and we went together. We could have gone to the Anglican or Catholic church - guess who won?'

'Where my heart is': Tony Blair and wife Cherie arrive at a service in memory of Pope John Paul II at London's Westminster Cathedral

Mr Blair chose to remain a member of the Church of England after spin doctor Alistair Campbell famously warned him: 'We don't do religion'.

But the former premier, who set up The Tony Blair Faith Foundation, last night told the Communion and Liberation Committee in Rimini, Italy, that switching to Catholicism was like 'coming home' and is now 'where my heart is.'

According to London's Evening Standard, he said: 'As time went on, I had been going to Mass for a long time... it's difficult to find the right words. I felt this was right for me. There was something, not just about the doctrine of the Church, but of the universal nature of the Catholic Church.'

He told the delegates of how he had been to Mass in several countries in the past few weeks and described an incident at the end of a service in Tokyo where he had been asked to stand up and talk about himself.

He said: 'For the first time in a long while I was able to stand up and tell a crowd of Japanese, 'I'm Tony and I'm from London'.'

Mr Blair, who began his speech in Italian, said: 'It is a pleasure always to be in Italy. It is here in this country that I have spent many happy times and where 30 years ago, almost to the day, I proposed to my wife and three decades and four children later, I at least am still pleased to recall the memory.

'Ever since I began preparations to become a Catholic I felt I was coming home and this is now where my heart is, where I know I belong.'

In his speech entitled 'Person, Community and State', he made a brief reference to his own journey from popular Opposition leader to heavilycriticised premier.

'As Prime Minister of the UK for 10 years, but also as leader of the Labour Party for 13, during which time I reformed its constitution precisely around the relationship between the individual and the state, I learnt many things.

'I began hoping to please all of the people all of the time; and ended wondering if I was pleasing any of the people any of the time. But that's another story.

'In my foundation - dedicated to respect and understanding between the religious faiths - I always say clearly I am and remain a Christian, seeking salvation through our Lord, Jesus Christ.

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