LONDON – Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is preparing to convert to Roman Catholicism within weeks, according to reports Thursday.
The move, which has been touted since before Blair stepped down from office earlier this year, has prompted Catholics to demand that he renounce his previous support for abortion, which goes against the Vatican's teachings.
"I hope we will get a public statement repudiating his votes on abortion. Indeed, the Church will require it," said Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, who had also converted to Catholicism over her opposition to women priests in the Church of England.
"The Church requires that we say at the point of reception that everything the Church teaches is revealed truth. There's no hedging. Mr. Blair has taken a very public stand on the matter of abortion, and the Church stand being very publicly different, we are entitled to know what he now thinks," she added.
"Without that, it cannot possibly be a serious move."
There has long been speculation that Blair, an Anglican, would convert to Catholicism, the faith of his wife, Cherie Blair, and four children. Downing Street, however, had refused to comment on Blair's religious intentions.
"This story is always circulating in one form or another," a spokesman said around a month before Blair left office on June 27 after 10 years in power.
"The Prime Minister remains a member of the Church of England."
However, the archbishop of Westminster's involvement in an upcoming conversion ceremony suggests Blair's process of conversion began while he was still prime minister. A candidate for reception into the Catholic Church is usually received by their parish priest.
According to reports, Blair will carry out his conversion in a Mass in the private chapel of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales.
The Tablet, a British Catholic weekly newspaper, claimed the conversion will take place later this month.
The Tablet also reported that Blair has been receiving instruction from two priests, British air force chaplain John Walsh and Father Mark O'Toole, the cardinal's secretary.
A spokesman for Blair refused to deny the reports, simply saying, "This is the same old speculation."