Prime Minister Blair receives communion from Pope John Paul II at the Vatican

March 19, 2003

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain, an Anglican, received communion from Pope John Paul II during a recent visit to the Vatican and attended mass with his wife and three eldest children, all of whom are Roman Catholics.

A Jesuit liturgist from one of the pontifical universities confirmed the story. Reports indicate that the Vatican Secretariat of State granted a special dispensation to Blair on the grounds that there is no Anglican church for him to attend in the Vatican, although there are three Anglican places of worship in Rome itself. 'It could be significant,' said the Rev. Jonathan Boardman, chaplain of All Saints Church. 'This little stone could start an avalanche. The granting of dispensations becomes highly charged to those of us who whom they aren't granted.'

In Britain it is permissible for a non-Roman Catholic in a mixed marriage to receive communion under guidelines outlined in 'One Bread One Body,' a 1998 Roman Catholic teaching document, but the document makes it clear that 'eucharistic sharing can only be exceptional.'

'We're delighted,' said the Rev. Martin Reardon of the Association of Interchurch Families. 'It is progress. We would hope that the guidelines will develop to meet the pastoral needs of interchurch families.'

Another Anglican source in Rome warned, however, that there are too many exceptions, perhaps an indication that there is an eagerness by some in the Vatican to do the little things that can be done, rather than tackling some of the larger issues.

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