The World’s Jane Little reports on mixed reactions today to the Vatican’s sudden announcement yesterday that it was making it easier for Anglicans to convert to the Roman Catholic faith.
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MARCO WERMAN: I’m Marco Werman. This is The World. Mixed reaction today to the Vatican’s overture to disgruntled Anglicans. Yesterday the Vatican announced it was making easier for Anglicans to convert to Catholicism. The move is aimed at dissident Anglicans or Episcopal perishes in the US and around the world. The World’s religion editor, Jane Little, reports.
JANE LITTLE: This morning’s front page headline in The Times of London read “Papal gambit stuns church. Thousands of priests worldwide expected to make switch.” That’s what the Vatican may hope. It’s creating a new conversion structure to make it easier for Anglicans uncomfortable with openly gay and female clerics to move over in entire perishes or even diocese. They would become Catholics in name, answerable to the Pope, but could keep their own spiritual liturgical traditions. The Chief Vatican Theologian Cardinal William Levada also said married priests would be welcome.
WILLIAM LEVADA: The church I think has also shown a generosity to allow those married ministers in the Anglican Church who want to enter the Catholic Church the dispensation for them to continue in ministry and to be ordained Catholic priests as married men.
LITTLE: But those married priests who do switch their allegiance to the Vatican can’t go on to become Catholic bishops. Some traditionalists within the Anglican Communion welcome the development as a decisive move, a relief after the arguments and uncertainty that have racked the global family of churches since Gene Robinson became the communion’s first openly gay bishop in New Hampshire in 2003. Recent Church of England plans to ordain women as bishops, as already happens in the American Episcopal Church, have caused further splits. The Reverend Dr. Giles Fraser of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and himself on the liberal wing, also welcomed the Vatican’s move.
GILES FRASER: The way I read it is it’s just a gracious offer by the Holy See to accommodate those people within the Anglican Church who are you know really dissatisfied with the way things are going particularly of women bishops. And just to give them a home.
LITTLE: But others have called it predatory and cynical – aimed at capitalizing on the divisions within Anglicanism. Dr. Christina Rees heads Women and the Church, a lobby group in favor of women bishops.
CHRISTINA REES: I’m a bit sour about it because the timing is interesting. Right now currently the Church of England is preparing legislation for women bishops and this very generous offer comes. So I think the timing is perhaps more cynical than what they’ve done.
LITTLE: Meanwhile the embattled Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, has been putting a brave face on it appearing at a hastily convened press conference to say that this was not an act of aggression. But the Vatican’s move is a serious blow to him and his attempts to prevent a schism within Anglicanism. Whether there will be mass defections however remains to be seen. That said this is part of Pope Benedict’s obvious desire to create a strong traditionalist church and the new churches within a church would sit along side similar structures to re-embrace Catholic groups that broke away. But it may well come at a cost. It’s hard to imagine that this will improve attempts at Christian unity or the welcome the Pope may receive when he visits England next year. For The World this is Jane Little.
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