Blair has 'cordial' private meeting with the Pope

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The Independent Online

At a "cordial" meeting lasting 35 minutes, Tony Blair and Pope Benedict XVI yesterday discussed terrorism, globalisation and related issues.

After the private meeting, the Prime Minister's wife Cherie Blair and the couple's children joined the two men. It was the second meeting between Mrs Blair and the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in less than three months: in April Mrs Blair was addressing a Vatican audience on the challenges of motherhood when the Pope unexpectedly invited her into his study.

Mr Blair last visited the Vatican in 2003. That visit was overshadowed by the previous Pope's hostility to the Iraq war. Benedict has given no hint about his views on that subject, and it was not discussed yesterday. The Vatican and Downing Street spokesmen said the two men "discussed Africa at some length", China and Northern Ireland.

"One of the themes of discussion was how the moderate voices in all the world's major religions need to stand up to religious extremism in all its forms," according to Downing Street. Mr Blair has invited the Pope to visit Britain but neither side would be drawn on when or if the visit might take place.