(Photo: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (L) and Pope Benedict in London September 17, 2010/Stefan Wermuth)
The Roman Catholic Church will launch its first ordinariate for disaffected Anglicans in England and Wales in January and take in bishops, priests and laity over the following months, the Church announced on Friday.
Five traditionalist Church of England bishops have applied to join the ordinariate, a Church subdivision retaining some Anglican traditions, and about 30 groups of parishioners are due to cross over, Church leaders told journalists.
It was not clear how many priests would convert in the move, prompted by traditionalist opposition to Church of England plans to ordain women bishops. Married Anglican priests will be accepted but married bishops cannot retain their higher status.
“Decisions are with those who at present are in the Anglican Communion, or on its edge, and they have to make up their minds,” said Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. “But we are open to whichever way this develops, whether it develops into something significant or whether over time the groups … naturally absorb themselves into Catholic dioceses.”
Pope Benedict offered last year to create ordinariates for traditionalist Anglicans, mostly “Anglo-Catholics” whose liturgy is close to Catholic practice. Other groups of Anglicans in Australia and North America have also expressed interest. The offer caused tension between Rome and the Church of England, where many felt the announcement was handled badly and sidelined Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.