UPDATE: A spokesman for Tony Blair has confirmed that the former Prime Minister will be meeting the Holy Father at Westminster Hall and not at the meeting of religious leaders in Twickenham.
Tony Blair is scheduled to meet Benedict XVI next week to discuss interreligious dialogue.
Although the date and time of their meeting isn’t known, it’s possible the former Prime Minister will join religious leaders when they meet the Holy Father next Friday at St Mary’s College in Twickenham. Some reports say he will also accompany the Pope for some of his trip.
Through his Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which he created after leaving Downing Street, Mr Blair has been trying to promote respect and understanding about the world’s major religions and show them as a force for good.
However, the organisation faced some criticism last year when a member of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, Mgr Michel Schooyans, claimed the organisation was an instrument to further Mr Blair’s “messianic” revision of human rights, moulding all religions into his own idea of truth.
A foundation spokesman strongly denied the charge, saying it was “definitely not looking to discover or create a lowest common denominator among faiths”. On the foundation website Mr Blair insists that the aim of his organisation is not to “supplant or undermine” other religions, but rather “allow people to respect and value the other person’s beliefs, to understand what those beliefs really are, and to let those of different faiths see the values they often share”.
But there is also the serious problem of Mr Blair’s voting record on life issues. Among other policies, he voted to retain the 24-week limit on abortion and championed civil partnerships legislation. He has yet to publicly repudiate any of these since he was received into the Church in 2007.
Yet were it not for Mr Blair, this state visit may not be taking place.
According to sources, he was one of the first to support inviting the
Pope after paying three visits to the Vatican while he was the nation’s
political leader. Cherie Blair also had her own private audience with
Benedict. Their visits were followed by Gordon Brown who met Benedict
XVI twice at the Vatican, once as Prime Minister last year when he
invited the Pope on behalf of the Queen.
His predecessor, John Major, on the other hand, never visited the Vatican.