The Vatican said Tuesday it has worked out a way for groups of Anglicans who are dissatisfied with their faith to join the Catholic Church. The process will enable groups of Anglicans to become Catholic and recognize the pope as their leader, yet have parishes that retain Anglican rites, Vatican officials said.
The move comes some 450 years after King Henry VIII broke from Rome and created the Church of England, forerunner of the Anglican Communion. The parishes would be led by former Anglican clergy -- including those who are married -- who would be ordained as Catholic priests.
The number of Anglicans wishing to join the Catholic Church increased in recent years as the Anglican Church has welcomed the ordination of women and openly gay clergy and blessed homosexual partnerships.
Their talks with the Vatican recently began speeding up, Vatican officials said, leading to Tuesday's announcement. While married Anglican priests may be ordained as Catholic priests, the same does not apply to married Anglican bishops, Levada said.
"We've been praying for this unity for 40 years and we've not anticipated it happening now," Di Noia said. "The Holy Spirit is at work here."
The Right Rev. Daren K. Williams, bishop ordinary of the western diocese of the Anglican Church of America, said his parishioners have generally been "very warmly receiving" Tuesday's announcement."It is encouraging for them to know their worship experience wouldn't be turned upside down by the Roman Catholic Church," Williams said.
"The person in the pew should see very little difference in the way we pray. We might be asked to pray aloud for any pope who happens to be in office, in addition to praying for our primate. "Really, there'd be very little other difference."
The Church of England said the move ends a "period of uncertainty" for Anglican groups who wanted more unity with the Catholic Church. Both groups have a "substantial overlap in faith, doctrine and spirituality" and will continue to hold official dialogues, the archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster said in a joint statement.
Preserving Anglican traditions, such as mass rites, adds to the diversity of the Catholic Church, he said. "The unity of the church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows," he said. "Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: 'There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.' "
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