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Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

world Updated: Dec 23, 2007 03:37 IST

Former British prime minister Tony Blair has made the long-awaited step of converting to Catholicism, news reports said on Saturday.

Blair, a former Anglican, was welcomed into the church at a service on Friday night, Britain's Press Association reported quoting confidants of the former Labour Party leader.

Since resigning as the head of government last summer, Blair has taken on the role of envoy of the so-called Middle East Quartet, seeking reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis.

One of his last official acts as prime minister, after 10 years in power, was an official visit to Pope Benedict XVI in Rome in June.

Blair's third Vatican audience in four years fuelled public speculation about his spiritual life.

Like his former ally in the war on Iraq, US President George W Bush, Blair is a strong believer. Contrary to that of Bush, Blair's government policy was not influenced by religion.

With his conversion to Catholicism, Blair also took on the denomination of his wife Cherie.

Around 72 percent of Britons are Christian - the majority belonging to the Anglican Church, or Church of England, which is the established church in England.

Although there would have been no constitutional hurdle to his conversion as head of government, it was clear that he would take the step only once his term had ended.