The move was announced as Anglican leader Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, protested to the Pope in the Vatican over its plans to receive Anglican converts en masse. Pope Benedict XVI was last month accused of attempting to poach Anglicans unhappy about decisions taken in their church to ordain women and sexually-active homosexuals as priests and bishops.
In response to requests from about 30 Anglican bishops around the world for ‘corporate reunion’ with the Catholic Church, he has permitted vicars and their entire congregations to defect to Rome while keeping many of their Anglican traditions – including married priests.
In a 20-minute meeting on Saturday, Dr Williams complained to the Pope about the ‘lack of consultation’ over the move, saying it had left him in an ‘awkward position’. But the pair failed to issue a joint statement.
In London, Catholic leaders announced the appointment of a commission to deal with the reception of up to 200 Anglican congregations – a figure proposed by Forward in Faith, an Anglo-Catholic group –which would amount to thousands of converts.
John Broadhurst, the Anglican Bishop of Fulham and chairman of Forward in Faith, said mass conversion was a real prospect. ‘We have a thousand priest members in my organisation and there are many others who agree with us,’ he said. ‘The main issue for many Anglican priests is now the ownership of parish churches.’
The commission is expected to look at the possibility of church-sharing and also the chances of taking out 100-year leases of some Anglican parishes.
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