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– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
Prediction 7: The Pope taking radical steps to bring all sheep back into fold.

Pope’s Anglican Move May Prompt ‘Flood’ of Converts, Group Says
By Brian Lysaght


(Bloomberg) -- The Church of England may see a “flood” of traditionalist members moving to the Roman Catholic Church following an offer by Pope Benedict XVI to welcome Anglican priests and worshippers, a religious group said.

The Vatican said yesterday it has set up a special structure to integrate Anglicans and enable the faith’s married priests to become Catholic clerics.

“It could well be a flood, provided the terms and conditions are favorable,” said Stephen Parkinson, director of the Anglican traditionalist group Forward in Faith. As many as 1,000 priests could convert, he said today in a telephone interview. “We haven’t seen the fine print yet.”

The offer may be the most important step toward unity between the two churches since they split in 1534 over Pope Clement VII’s refusal to grant King Henry VIII an annulment to his marriage. Traditionalist Anglicans have threatened to quit their church over the ordination of female bishops and acceptance of homosexual bishops and same-sex unions.

The Vatican’s new structure for Anglicans, dubbed “personal ordinariates,” would allow married Anglican clergymen to be ordained as Catholic priests, though not as bishops.

“This is a very significant and generous step by the Roman Catholic Church,” said David Houlding, a Church of England pastor in London, in an interview. “They want Anglicans to keep their identity and their spiritual traditions.”

Two English Anglican bishops who visited the Vatican last year to urge church officials to improve links between Catholics and Anglicans said they “warmly welcomed” the pope’s decision.

‘Form a Caravan’

Andrew Burnham, bishop of Ebbsfleet, and Keith Newton, bishop of Richborough, said in a joint statement yesterday they would decide by February whether to pursue the offer.

While some Anglicans may decline, others “will begin to form a caravan, rather like the people of Israel crossing the desert in search of the Promised Land,” Burnham and Newton said.

Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and senior cleric for the Anglican church’s 80 million members, said that he wished “God’s strength and guidance” to those who take up the offer.

He has tried to quell disagreements over same-sex marriages and female clery during his term. In 2003, ordination of gay bishop Gene Robinson in New Hampshire caused some U.S. parishes to place themselves under the jurisdiction of Anglican churches in Africa.

‘Safe Journey’

Williams “will be worried about losing people,” said Houlding, an adviser to Williams as a member of the Archbishop’s Council. “He sees this as a way of helping those who want to go. He would rather they had a safe journey.”

The Catholic Church, which has 1.1 billion members, is opposed to same-sex marriage and gay clergy. Catholic priests must be male, unmarried and celibate.

In 2006, Williams met with Pope Benedict in Rome to discuss closer ties between the two Christian faiths. Pope Benedict may visit the U.K. next year, in what would be the first papal visit to Britain in almost three decades.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Lysaght in London at
blysaght@bloomberg.net
 

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