Cool to be Catholic
On the eve of the Pope's visit, Religious Affairs Correspondent John Cooney looks at Britain's ambivalent relationship with Rome
Roman Catholicism has become fashionably chic in England. The roll-call of Romeward subscribers could amply fill a glossy bumper edition of Hello! magazine. Princess Di flirted with it.
Tony Blair has embraced it. Tory stalwarts such as Ann Widdecombe and John Gummer have become zealous Catholic crusaders. Even the rakish Tory toff Alan Clarke is reputed by his biographer to have turned to Catholicism on his death-bed.
Their dalliances with Rome have titillated both tabloid and broadsheet readers through the indiscreet revelations of Franciscan friar Fr Michael Sheed, the celebrity chaplain to the hobnobs of English politics and high society.