BY LUKE COPPEN
POPE JOHN Paul 11 is unlikely to have given Tony Blair holy communion during a private Mass in February, it emerged this week.
News sources in Rome had claimed that the Prime Minister received a special dispensation from the Vatican to receive the Eucharist during the Mass, celebrated in the Pope's private chapel. Mr Blair, an Anglican, attended the ceremony with his wife and three eldest children, all of whom are Catholics.
But sources close to the Vatican insisted that the Prime Minister only received a blessing from the Pope during the February 22 Mass. They said that contrary to reports, Tony Blair did not ask to receive the Eucharist.
The sources explained that Tony Blair had sent a representative to Rome in January to discuss the details of the visit with Curial officials. Both parties are likely to have agreed the protocol for the private Mass then.
The Vatican Press Office said it could not confirm or deny the reports. "We have absolutely no information whatsoever,a spokeswoman said.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "We have said from the outset that the Prime Minister's audience with the Pope was a private matter and we cannot comment on it.
"All we can say is that the Prime Minister is not a member of the Catholic faith."
In 1998, the late Cardinal Basil Hume disclosed that he had written to the Prime Minister, asking him not to receive the Eucharist in British Catholic churches. Since then Mr Blair has only publicly received Catholic communion during his holidays in Tuscany, Italy. Last Sunday, he attended Mass at St Anne's in Wendover, Buckinghamshire.
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