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Blair, Pope Meeting Fuels Conversion Rumors

Blair, Pope Meeting Fuels Conversion Rumors

British Prime Minister Tony Blair met privately with Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday, fueling further speculation that he will convert to Catholicism after he steps down from his post next week.

The meeting took place for 25 minutes at the Vatican and was the final leg of what media have dubbed Blair's "farewell tour."

Blair reportedly brought gifts for the Roman Catholic head, one of which was an original photograph of John Henry Newman, a 19th century Anglican leader who was one of Britain's most illustrious converts to Catholicism.

Following the private meeting in the pontiff's study, the most-senior member of the Roman Catholic Church in England, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, joined the meeting.

The prime minister's wife, Cherie Blair, who is already a Catholic, accompanied her husband to the Vatican, and also met the Pope along with a British delegation at the end of the private talks.

A Vatican statement revealed that Benedict and Blair conversed on various international situations, including Europe and the Middle East.

The statement reported how the Vatican welcomed Blair's intentions to work towards peace in the Middle East region, and to promote inter-religious dialogue when he steps down as prime minister.

In an interview with the London-based Times on Saturday, when asked if he would convert, Blair answered: "I don't want to talk about it. It's difficult with some of these things. Things aren't always as resolved as they might be."


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