Cherie Blair praises Pope over human rights
Cherie Blair has praised Pope John Paul II as "one of the foremost exponents of human rights".
She also described the Pope as being "ahead of his time" in his views on the role of women in the Church, as laid out in his 1988 Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem.
The Prime Minister's wife was delivering a lecture, entitled "A Catholic Perspective on Human Rights", at the Tyburn Convent, central London.
Addressing around 150 guests, Mrs Blair said: "The Church has still some way to go in practically introducing his (the Pope's) concepts into Church and lay life but, as in many other areas, he is often ahead of his time.
"In particular, the Pope speaks of the 'feminine genius' and that the Christian Gospel is in 'consistent protest with whatever offends the dignity of women'.
"The concept of the 'feminine genius' will have varying interpretations and, as I have indicated, historically the Church has not always lived up to that interpretation of the Gospel."
"But today and in the future we must work towards realising this vision of an integral role for women, and indeed for the laity, in the Church."
Mrs Blair said women were still seen as "progressing the ideas of the masculine other in the Church, rather than being acknowledged for what the feminine genius can contribute in its own right to the Church".
Concluding her 45-minute lecture, she said: "There is still more that we can do, not least at the parish, diocesan, national and international structures of the church, to be more inclusive. The renewal of the Church demands that each of us play a part."