Pope makes it easier for Anglicans to switch to Rome
Pope Benedict has made it easier for disaffected Anglicans to convert to Roman Catholicism.
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the Anglican Church, and Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, stressed dialogue would continue between the two churches.
They were at pains to say it was not a comment on the Anglican Communion, but a response to requests from traditional Anglicans from all over the world.
Williams said he did not see it as an act of aggression, but he had no input in the new “Apostolic Constitution” and was only told about its details two weeks before it was disclosed at the offices of the Roman Catholic Church in London. A simultaneous press conference was held at the Vatican.
The head of the Anglican Church has been trying to keep together the liberal and conservative wings of the church, divided since the consecration of openly gay U.S. Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003 and the blessing of same sex marriages in Canada.
The Church of England has also experienced disagreement over the issue of women bishops.
Details of the legal framework were limited, but the constitution allows groups to join the Roman Catholic Church while maintaining some of their own traditions.
It allows for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy, but not bishops.
It would allow the appointment of leaders, usually bishops, to oversee communities of former Anglicans who become Catholics and recognise the pope as their leader.
They may be able to eventually develop their own liturgy which would have to be approved by the Holy See.
The constitution poses serious questions for both churches.
For the Anglican Church, will it weaken its status? Will it clear the way for women bishops?
For the Roman Catholic Church, will it reopen the issue of celibate priesthood?