In a response to the growing disaffection felt by many Anglicans with regard to recent decisions by their church bodies, the Vatican has announced that it will welcome clergy and congregations who wish to align themselves with Roman Catholicism. Special provision will be made to allow such churches to retain parts of the Anglican liturgy. Married Anglican pastors will be welcomed, as is currently the practice for any previously married clergy converting to Catholicism.
The joint statement announcing Pope Benedict XVI’s intent to invite these bodies into “visible full communion” is signed by Vincent Gerard Nichols, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, and Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and titular head of the Anglican Communion.
Is this a case of two church bodies acting in unison to find spiritual homes for those who feel alienated by the lurch to the left by certain Anglican bodies (such as the Episcopal Church in the United States)? Is it a last ditch effort by Archbishop Williams to keep the Anglican Communion from further disintegration? Is it a “sheep stealing” maneuver by Rome? Some combination of these elements? It definitely appears to be a significant ecumenical shift by two church bodies that have been increasingly at odds over matters of human sexuality.
More information on the Roman Catholic/Anglican agreement is available here.