Iron Lady to meet the Pope in a private audience at the Vatican





Margaret Thatcher is to travel to Rome for a private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI next week, The Independent has learnt. The former Prime Minister will fly to Italy today with her daughter Carol and her week-long stay will include a private audience with the pontiff next Wednesday.

The 83-year-old will make a brief protocol visit to the Vatican and has been afforded time to see the Pope face to face. She did not seek the private audience, but agreed to its being arranged by her old friend Carla Powell, whose husband, Charles, was a key foreign policy advisor to her Conservative government. Lady Thatcher will be staying with Lord and Lady Powell at their villa on the outskirts of Rome.

Lady Thatcher's visit to the Vatican follows that of both Gordon Brown who met the Pope in February, and Tony Blair who saw him in June 2007. But Lady Thatcher can claim a certain one-up-manship in the Papal stakes: she has met two of Pope Benedict's predecessors as well.



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