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By Nick Pisa
Last updated at 6:04 PM on 08th November 2009
Catholic convert Tony Blair is among several world leaders being invited to attend a top level summit with Pope Benedict XVI to discuss the role of the Church in politics.
The two-day summit will be held at the Vatican and will include other Catholic politicians from all over the world, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. vice president Joe Biden, former Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar, and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Church officials have been quietly working on the conference, which will be called ‘Witnesses of Christ in the Political Community’, for several months.
Items to be discussed include the family, right to life, Christian roots, education and bio-ethics.
Vatican sources said that Pope Benedict XVI was becoming ‘increasingly concerned’ at how Christian values were being eroded because of various world governments introducing legislation against Catholic teaching.
During his time in office Mr Blair chose to remain a member of the Church of England after spin doctor Alistair Campbell famously warned him: ‘We don’t do religion.’
Some Labour policies were at odds with the Catholic Church and Mr Blair even incurred the wrath of the late Pope John Paul II by refusing to back down over the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The former Prime Minister famously converted to Catholicism after he left Downing Street in 2007.
He has met current Pope Benedict XVI and he has also set up The Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Two months ago he told the Communion and Liberation Committee in Rimini, Italy, that switching to Catholicism was like ‘coming home’ and is now ‘where my heart is.’
Vatican sources said the timing of the meeting would be pushed forward to early next year given the decision earlier this week by the European Court of Human Rights that Italy should remove crucifixes from classrooms.
A senior Vatican official said: ‘There is growing alarm within the Vatican and especially the Holy Father that not enough prominence is being given to basic Christian and family values by governments.
‘This has been further increased by this week’s ruling by the European Court of Human rights and the display of crucifixes in Italian classrooms – it is outrageous that such an institution could interfere in the cultural heritage of Italy in such a way.’
The landmark decision caused outrage amongst Italian politicians and was also slammed by the Vatican who described it as ‘wrong, short sighted and regretful.’