On the day before Pope Benedict arrives for the start of his four-day visit to England and Scotland, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, has written an article praising the Holy Father for his courage.
As the Protest the Pope campaign continue to attack the Catholic Church and the Government for inviting the Pope to make a State visit, Mr Blair, writes in the L'Osservatore Romano, that Catholics are looking forward to the visit.
He said many Catholics admire the Holy Father because he shows for the same “intellectual courage” they saw in Cardinal Newman, who the Pope will beatify during his visit.
Blair writes: “In England there have been very few saints in recent times, at least one recognised by the Church. That's why English Catholics are delighted by the beatification of John Henry Newman.
“For this reason a Pope is coming to our country and what's more a Pope in total harmony with the thinking of Newman, with his spirit and ideas.”
Speaking of the Faith Foundation, which Blair founded to promote interfaith relations, Blair said: “I think Newman would have been a strong ally in the promotion of dialogue between religions because of his theory of development. My Faith Foundation confirms people's faith and obtains respect for people of other faiths.”
The Holy Father was first invited to the UK by Tony Blair in 2007. The invitation was made more than once. In March 2009 Gordon Brown's government sent an official invitation, which was formally accepted by the Vatican.