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Conservative Anglican Priests Consider Offer to Join Catholic Church

Conservative Anglican Priests Consider Offer to Join Catholic Church
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The Vatican has offered to allow conservative Anglican clergy to join a special section of the Catholic Church. They would be able to retain the Anglican liturgy and a married priesthood. Some Anglican clergymen feel alienated by changes in their church over the past few years. In Britain the schism is mostly over women priests and gay marriage.

Some of Britain's Anglican churches have always resembled Catholic ones, with high masses full of pomp and ceremony.

Recently, some Anglican clergy, unhappy with the Church of England, have been making overtures to Rome.

The Reverend John Broadhurst, the bishop of Fulham, is one of them. He says the Anglican Church is facing challenges. "Its very divided about women priests and women bishops, its very divided about homosexuality, its very divided over marriage and divorce," Reverend Broadhurst said.

Now, Pope Benedict has made an offer to Anglican clergy around the world.

"If you want to be Anglican but in unity with Rome, you're welcome. That's the real change because in the past you had to become a Roman Catholic and therefore it's culturally rather different," Reverend Broadhurst says, "He's now saying Anglicans, provided they agree on doctrine, can come into unity with Rome."

Anglican clergymen accepting the offer would recognize the Pope as their leader, but still be able to keep parts of their faith, such as marriage. Anglican priests would be ordained as Catholics, but Anglican bishops would not.

In Britain's Anglican Church, the decision to allow women to be ordained as priests fueled a rift.

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Reverend Miranda Threllfell-Holmes is Chaplain of University College Durham. She says only a small minority of Anglican clergy objects. "There's just a few hundred people [clergy] who for some reason simply can't accept that women can represent God in the same way as a man can," she said.

The Reverend says it's just a matter of time until women are allowed to be Anglican bishops. "People say well Jesus didn't have, he appointed 12 male apostles, but they forget about people like Mary Magdalene, who was the first witness to the resurrection and called, even in Catholic spirituality, the Apostle to the Apostles," she explains, "because she was the first person who brought the news of the resurrection to the apostles."

Some pro-Catholic Anglican clergymen say hundreds of priests may accept the Vatican's offer. That's a small minority.

And, here in Britain, many details need to be worked out, such as who will pay the priests and where will they live and worship. Right now they do that on Church of England property.

There's also the question of what other churches will decide. Many Anglican churches in Africa are conservative and could welcome the offer. Anglicans in the U.S., comprised mostly of Episcopalians, are already sharply divided, mainly over homosexuals in the clergy.