Tuesday the Vatican said it has prepared a way for groups of Anglicans who are dissatisfied with their faith to join the Catholic Church.
According to the Vatican, more Anglicans have expressed an interest in joining the Catholic Church.
The process will allow groups of Anglicans, including bishops and married priests, to join the Catholic Church some 450 years after King Henry VIII broke from Rome and created the Church of England.
The number of Anglicans wishing to join the Catholic Church has increased in recent years as the Anglican church has welcomed the ordination of women and openly gay clergy and blessed homosexual partnerships, said Cardinal William Joseph Levada, the head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Their talks with the Vatican recently began speeding up, Vatican officials said, leading to Tuesday's announcement.
"The Catholic Church is responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion," Levada said, CNN International reports.
In the meantime, the leader of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, joined the head of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, in a issuing a joint statement on the Vatican decision.
The initiative “brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church,” the clerics said in the statement today. “It will now be up to those have made requests to the Holy See to respond.”
The announcement follows reports in British newspapers last month that Pope Benedict XVI had agreed to travel to the U.K. next year, probably in September, in the first papal visit there since Pope John Paul II’s in 1982. Prime Minister Gordon Brown formally extended an invitation to Benedict when they met in February at the Vatican.
In July, the Vatican moved 19th-century Cardinal John Henry Newman, one of the most famous Anglican converts to Catholicism, a step closer to being declared a saint. Some media reports have suggested that the pope’s possible trip to Britain may include a ceremony in which Newman will officially be declared “beatified” or blessed, Bloomberg reports.
It was also reported, Anglicans will find it easier than before to join the Catholic Church because they will be able to use a standard benchmark of rules and obligations for conversion.
Men who want to become priests and come from an Anglican background will study together with Catholic seminarians even if they are destined to eventually administer to former Anglicans.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican communion, told a news conference in London that he did not see the Vatican move as "an act of aggression" or vote of no confidence, but part of a routine relationship between the two Churches, Reuters reports.
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