Catholic News Service photo
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a major figure in world politics and the only woman to lead Britain's government, died April 8 at the age of 87. She is pictured in a 2010 photo.
Catholic News Service photo
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a major figure in world politics and the only woman to lead Britain's government, died April 8 at the age of 87. She is pictured in a 2010 photo.

Pope Francis and the Catholic bishops of England and Wales offered prayers for the soul of Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister who died at age 87 following a stroke.

Thatcher, the daughter of a Methodist greengrocer, became the first woman ever to hold the office of British prime minister when her center-right Conservative Party swept to power at the end of a decade troubled by economic misery and public strikes.

While in office, Thatcher strove to “roll back the frontiers of the state” by privatizing state-owned sectors of British industry and by giving people in social housing the right buy their homes from local authorities.

She reduced the powers of the trades unions, lowered taxes and introduced monetary policies to lower inflation.

But deindustrialization of the 1980s also saw rising unemployment and rioting in major British cities, leading to appeals from Catholic and Anglican bishops for Thatcher to take a more “compassionate” approach.

She also took Britain into war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands in 1982 and united with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Blessed Pope John Paul in taking a strong position against communist imperialism, for which she earned the moniker the Iron Lady, given to her by a Soviet journalist.

She also took an uncompromising approach to Irish terrorism.

Thatcher was seldom openly antagonistic toward the Catholic Church, however, and a Catholic member of Parliament once arranged a meeting between the prime minister and Blessed Teresa of Kolkata.