Saturday, May 27, 2006

PM invites the PM

Blair could offer Pope state visit

TONY BLAIR is to meet the Pope next weekend on his second official visit to the Vatican in three years. He is expected to use the meeting to persuade Benedict XVI to set a date for his first formal visit to Britain.

The Pope has already been invited by Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, but no timing has been agreed.

It is understood tentative consideration is now being given to upgrading the invitation to a full state visit in the Pope’s capacity as head of state of the Vatican. Some officials argue this may mark the invitation out from numerous others Benedict has received.

His predecessor’s British tour in 1982 included a mass in front of 80,000 at Wembley stadium. John Paul II also met the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury, but was not accorded the pomp of a full state visit, such as a state banquet and carriage procession along the Mall.