LABOUR leader Tony Blair is to stop taking communion in Roman Catholic services after being ruled out of order by church leaders, it emerged last night.

Mr Blair, an Anglican, has admitted accepting the sacrament at a church in north London despite strict rules forbidding non-Catholics to participate.

He is now believed to have accepted that his actions are causing offence and has agreed not to take communion.

Mr Blair has accompanied his Catholic wife, Cherie, and their three children to St Joan of Arc Church in Highbury.

A spokeswoman for Mr Blair had said that if taking Holy Communion was a problem for the church, he would stop.

The Roman Catholic Church yesterday welcomed Mr Blair's desire to worship with his family but warned: ``So far as receiving Holy Communion is concerned, however, the church's rules do not normally permit non-Catholics to receive Holy Communion.''

Mr Blair's office refused to comment further on the matter. But it is understood that he has taken the warning to heart.

A senior official for the Westminster diocese indicated that communion would no longer be offered, saying: ``The parish priest is new, but he is clear on church rules.''

Under the rules, non-Catholics may not receive communion unless in danger of death or when they have no access to their own ministers.

They are also able to take it on the day of their wedding to a Roman Catholic - but not during the marriage.

Mr Blair, who describes himself as an ecumenical Christian, has reportedly been taking communion regularly at St Joan's for the last five or six years.

But it is understood that the parish priest, who has only been in the post a few months, is not comfortable with the situation which he inherited.

A Roman Catholic Church spokeswoman admitted confusion surrounded the rules and added that Mr Blair's situation was ``probably far from unique''.

Home Office Minister Ann Widdecombe, who converted from the Anglican to the Roman Catholic faith, said: ``Anybody who actually takes the sacrament and who is not a Catholic is embarrassing the priest, because the priest will know he does not have the entitlement to the sacrament but cannot refuse him if he asks.

``This is particularly embarrassing to members of the congregation who know very well that person is not entitled to receive the sacrament.''

She added: ``We should remember the large number of divorced Catholics who are forbidden the sacrament. It is not fair on them if other people are disobeying the rules.''

A spokeswoman for Mr Blair refused to comment further on the situation, saying it was a ``private matter''.

She said he attended Anglican churches in his Sedgefield constituency - and liked to worship with the rest of his family.

q.Church of England rules state that all those of ``good standing'' within their own churches may share communion.

An agreement has also been reached with the Roman Catholic Church in France, whereby any Anglican would be able to receive communion with the priest's agreement.

This would apply in circumstances where an Anglican could not get to an Anglican church.