Religion is crucial to me: Tony Blair

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London, Nov 25: Tony Blair, often considered reticent about his religious beliefs in 10 years as British prime minister, has said religion is hugely important to him.

Blair said politicians spoke about religious faith in America but if you did so in Britain ''frankly people do think you are a nutter (crazy)''.

Last year, in an untypical remark, he sparked criticism from anti-war campaigners when he said that God would judge whether he had been right to go to war in Iraq, a decision that was deeply unpopular with many British voters.

Blair is widely believed to be considering converting from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism, a switch he was always apparently reluctant to make when prime minister.

When Blair was once pressed in an interview about his beliefs, his press spokesman Alastair Campbell famously interrupted and said: ''We don't do God.'' But the former prime minister, who stepped down in June after a decade in power to become a Middle East peace envoy, was much more open in a BBC TV documentary about what motivates him.

''You know if I am honest about it, yes of course it was hugely important. You know you can't have a religious faith and it be an insignificant aspect because it's, it's profound about you and about you as a human being,'' he said.

Significance of faith: ''If you don't have that strength it's difficult to do the job which is why the job is as much about character and temperament as it is about anything else. But for me having faith was an important part of being able to do that.'' European Union Trade Commissioner and close political confidant Peter Mandelson said of Blair: ''He's not an exhibitionist when it comes to religion but deep inside him it is very, very important.

''This is a man who takes a Bible with him wherever he goes and last thing at night he will read from the Bible.'' Blair, an Anglican in a country that has never had a Catholic premier, met Pope Benedict at the Vatican in June.

He has long denied speculation about his faith that had been sparked by his regular attendance at mass with his devout Catholic wife Cherie and their four children.

Blair was seen in the media as being reluctant to convert during his decade in power as this could have provoked a conflict with his role in appointing Anglican bishops.

He may have also felt the need to tread carefully while mediating in the Northern Ireland peace process between the province's Catholic and Protestant communities.


Reuters
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