For those of you who are fans of the Britcom "Yes, Minister," and "Yes, Prime Minister" (and I'm not the least of these, to paraphrase St. Paul) you'll enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at life at 10 Downing Street, in which Tony Blair was amused to find himself seemingly stuck in that 1980s sitcom. More to the point, for those interested in how Blair changed British policy regarding the British ambassadorship to the Holy See, a new BBC special sheds light on Blair's decision to shake things up Vaticanwise. By the way, when the former PM (and now Catholic layman) alludes to "Sir Humphrey," he is speaking of the series' obfuscating, tradition-bound but finally effective aide to the Minister and, eventually, Prime Minister.
In the first episode of the three-part [BBC] documentary series 'Our Man in the Vatican' Mr Blair recalls: "One of the funny things about the 'Yes Prime Minister show' is that if you have actually done the job you realise there is parody but, my goodness, it is parody close to truth.
"And one of the great Sir Humphrey moments was when the ambassadorship to the Holy See became vacant and I said 'Francis [Campbell] would be a great person to do that' and they said 'Well you know this, prime minister, but actually we don't really have this open to Catholics' and I honestly thought I misunderstood what they were saying.
"I said 'How do you mean? We're talking about that Embassy, the Vatican one'. They said 'Yes, I know, but not a Catholic there.'
"I said 'It's the Vatican, the Pope, he's a Catholic. You mean we actually as a matter of policy... say you can't have a Catholic?' I said 'What is this? It's the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard'."
Mr Blair added: "Can you imagine we say for years and years and years the one category of person we shouldn't have as ambassador to the Holy See is someone who shares their faith?
"I don't think that is very sensible - not in this day.
"Quite apart from being discriminatory, how stupid is it? So Francis was the first."
James Martin, SJ