Bush and Blair never prayed together, their wives say

March 2nd, 2009 - 4:30 pm ICT by IANS  

London, March 2 (IANS) The wives of former US President George W Bush and ex-British premier Tony Blair have cleared up one of the enduring myths of their time on the world stage.

The two men may have struck up a great personal friendship and seen eye-to-eye on the momentous events of the last decade but they definitely did not pray together, according to the two wives Sunday night.

“People used to suggest that Tony and George would actually pray together and that never happened of course,” said Cherie Blair presenting the latest episode of a Channel 4 series on the history of Christianity.

Echoing the bonds between their husbands, Laura Bush agreed, saying: “Never happened, absolutely, of course not.”

Rumours that the two leaders had prayed together at the ex-US President’s Texan ranch had circulated among journalists in the leadup to - and after - Blair’s controversial decision to support the American-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The rumour was dramatically brought out into the open in February 2003.

During an interview with Blair, who was then prime minister, feisty British television news presenter Jeremy Paxman referred to accusations of him being too close to Bush, before asking: “You don’t pray together, for example?”

Blair, visibly taken aback by the abrupt question, answered: “No, we don’t pray together, Jeremy, no.”

Paxman then asked him why he was smiling, to which Blair replied: “Because, why do you ask me the question?”

In May, 2003, Blair’s press adviser Jeremy Campbell told a reporter, “We don’t do God” - but once out of office, Blair left the Anglican Church in December 2007 to convert to Catholicism.

In her Sunday night programme, Cherie Blair, focussing on the future of Christianity, explored the issue of whether her husband was able to separate his religion from his political decisions.

“It’s a very fine tightrope, this division between religion and public life, and it can lead to unfair criticisms being made about why politicians take the decision they do,” said Cherie Blair, a committed Catholic, in a conversation with Laura Bush.

“And people take from that that you’re saying that everything I do is justified by God,” she added.

Her husband, who now heads the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, delivered the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington last month, where he told US President Barack Obama and others that he had wanted to end a prime ministerial speech with the words “God bless the British people.”

He mentioned the word ‘God’ no fewer than 31 times during his sermon.

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