The Great Debate UK
One can guess what Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will say to Pope Benedict when the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion travels to the Vatican later this year. The more interesting question might be what Queen Elizabeth is likely to say when she hosts the pope next year. (Photo: Queen Elizabeth, 13 June 2009/Luke MacGregor)
The timing of the trips couldn't be more intriguing, especially the second one. The pope is due to visit Britain in September 2010 and is expected to preside there over the beatification of the late Cardinal John Henry Newman, a famous 19th-century convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism.
The queen is, after all, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, many of whose flock the pope is seeking to poach with his offer last week allowing Anglicans to convert en masse while keeping many of their traditions. And among her honorifics is "Defender of the Faith." While that sounds impressive, it pales in comparison to Benedict's long string of titles including "Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles and Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church." But oneupmanship is a British sport, so one never knows how these things can turn out.
It is unclear how many CofE traditionalists, upset at moves to ordain women bishops and the issue of homosexuality, will move over to Rome, but the conservative Anglican group Forward in Faith suggested 12 Church of England bishops may switch - more than a quarter of their total.
Disaffected Anglican Dioceses in Papua New Guinea, the United States and Australia might consider switching to Roman Catholicism under a new constitution offered by Pope Benedict, according to Forward in Faith (FiF), a worldwide association of Anglicans opposed to the ordination of women priests or bishops. About a dozen bishops from the Church of England, the Anglican mother church, are also likely to convert, it says. (Photo: Vatican Cardinal William Levada announces offer to Anglicans, 20 Oct 2009/Tony Gentile)
The Church of England could not comment on numbers likely to convert, with one source adding: "It's all guesswork." But Stephen Parkinson, director of FiF, said a figure of 1,000 Church of England priests, reported in the media, was "credible." Read our news story on this here.