Pope opens door for Anglican defectors

22 October 2009

Source: ABC News

Pope Benedict has approved a “canonical structure” to ease the way for Anglicans, including married priests, to join the Catholic Church, the Vatican announced.

The Apostolic Constitution responds to “numerous requests to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in various parts of the world who want to enter into full and visible communion” with the Catholic Church, Cardinal William Joseph Levada said.

The move follows years of discontent among many Anglicans opposed to the ordination of women and gay marriage.

Several conservative Anglican priests have defected to Catholicism since the ordination of women was adopted from 1984 in various branches of the Anglican Communion and by the Church of England as a whole in 1992.

Leading the charge has been an Australia-based group, the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), whose leader Bishop John Hepworth made a formal request to the Pope in 2007 for all of its members to be allowed into the Catholic fold.

The TAC, which split from the Anglican Communion in 1991, claims a membership of 400,000.

The Anglican Communion split from Catholicism in the 16th century when Pope Clement VII refused to grant King Henry VIII a divorce from Catherine d’Aragon.

Roman Catholic clergy, priests and bishops are all male, which the church believes obeys the directives of Jesus Christ, whose 12 apostles were all men.

The Church of England, led by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, is the mother church of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which has about 77 million followers.

The Catholic Church counts some 1.1 billion faithful.

The overture to traditionalist Anglicans comes as the Pope has stepped up outreach to another traditionalist group known as the Lefebvrists, who broke away in 1988 over the modernising reforms of the 1960s.

Early this year Benedict sparked controversy by lifting the excommunication of four Lefebvrist bishops, including Holocaust denier Richard Williamson.



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