Northern Ireland news

Boris Johnson 'first baptised Catholic' to become prime minister

New Prime Minister Boris Johnson returning to Downing Street after visiting the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday. Picture by Jonathan Brady, Press Association

BORIS Johnson has become the first baptised Catholic to become prime minister.

The 55-year-old, whose mother Charlotte Fawcett is Catholic, was baptised as a child.

His godmother is Lady Rachel Billington – daughter of the devoutly Catholic Lord Longford.

However, Mr Johnson was confirmed an Anglican while studying at Eton as a teenager.

Tory minister Michael Gove previously caused a storm by claiming that Mr Johnson's predecessor Theresa May was the first Catholic prime minister.

He said Mrs May was "an Anglo-Catholic rather than a Roman Catholic, but no less a Catholic for that".

Mr Gove claimed Mrs May's announcement that she had given up crisps for Lent was telling because although many Christians observe Lenten sacrifice "it is particularly a feature of Catholic practice".

Mrs May's late father Hubert Brasier was a clergyman seen as part of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Anglican church.

Tony Blair attended weekly Masses while he was in office and occasionally took Communion until the late Cardinal Basil Hume told him to stop because he was not a Catholic.

His wife Cherie is a practising Catholic and the couple raised their children in the faith and sent them to Church schools.

The former prime minister formally converted to Catholicism in 2007.

Of the new cabinet, leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg is the highest-profile Catholic.

Mr Rees-Mogg has previously said he tries to say the rosary every day, although not the "full 200 Hail Marys".

He once said: "I take my whip from the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church rather than the Whip's Office."

British laws have made it difficult for Catholics to rise to high office.

The Catholic Relief Act 1829 allowed members of the Church to sit in Parliament and hold government office.

But it was nearly impossible for Catholics to rise to Number 10 because the same act said no Catholic could advise the British Crown in the appointment to offices in the established church - the Church of England.

Benjamin Disraeli, who twice served as prime minister in the late 19th century, was born into a Jewish family but was baptised into the Anglican faith at the age of 12.

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