Tony Blair quells speculation about conversion to Catholicism

Posted: Friday, October 22, 2004

LONDON (AP) Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair dismissed speculation he intends to convert from the Church of England to Roman Catholicism.

Blair commented after British newspaper quotes from the Rev. Timothy Russ, who regularly leads Catholic services at Blair's country estate, Chequers.

''If you ask me do you think he wants to become a Catholic, I would say yes,'' Russ was quoted as saying, and: ''He didn't say to me, 'Can I become a Catholic?' What he said to me was, 'Can the prime minister be a Catholic?'''

Britain's Press Association said Blair responded to reporters, ''I am saying no. Don't they run this once a year? I think they do. Every year I get this.''

Blair has regularly accompanied his Catholic wife Cherie and their children to Mass, triggering conversion speculation.

By law, Britain's monarch must be Protestant. There is no legal barrier to a Catholic prime minister but there hasn't been one since the title came into use in the early 18th century, a constitutional expert said.

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