In the shadows

Oh dear, poor Tony Blair.

A couple of days ago Matthew Parris went to visit the bones of St Thérèse of Lisieux which are paying a neighborly visit to Westminster Cathedral. It was all very festive.

Already there was a near-carnival atmosphere surrounding the bones. A temporary fish-and-chips stall had sprung up beside a smoothies-and-coffee tent.

And that’s not the only treat.

Next, a big notice. “The Plenary Indulgence … A plenary indulgence is the complete remission of the temporal punishment due to sin.” Apparently Pope Benedict has declared a special grant of indulgences to pilgrims to these relics at Westminster. “One plenary indulgence may be gained each day and may be applied either to a soul in Purgatory or the pilgrim himself or herself.”

Ooooooh I do like a nice bit of magic.

And then the relics. Or rather the casket containing the relics. Or rather the big arched glass box containing the ornate wooden house with little tiles, embracing the sealed alabaster box in which the bones lay. Or rather were presumed by the pilgrims to lie.

Well naturally – would you have them strain at a gnat and swallow a camel?

At the front of the cathedral, among the departing pilgrims, was a man apparently alone. It was Tony Blair. He half-acknowledged me, and walked away. Blimey. Can these relics help a man become president of Europe? This was no photo-opportunity: our former Prime Minister and warrior for Western values had not expected to see a journalist — his expression betrayed that. So he really means it. Means it not just about God, but the God to whom Catholics think they have access.

Oh lordy. Poor Tony Blair – wanting to do that, and doing it, and being caught by Matthew Parris doing it.

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