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'No bid to lure Anglicans'

New body 'a response to aspirations,' Vatican says

09 November, 15:07
'No bid to lure Anglicans' (ANSA) - Vatican City, November 9 - Pope Benedict XVI is not trying to lure Anglicans into the Catholic Church, the Vatican said Monday as recently announced rules on conversions were officially published. A new section of the Catholic Church in which the converted Anglicans can gather "is not an initiative that came from the Holy See" but "a generous response by the Holy Father to the legitimate aspirations of some Anglican groups," said Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican's spokesman.

"It is not an initiative by the pope to attract new members," he said, stressing that dialogue with the Anglican Church would not be affected.

"The institution of this new structure is in full harmony with a commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church".

The decision to make it easier for Anglicans to join won't change the Holy See's rules on celibacy, the Vatican stressed.

Unmarried Anglicans will have to abstain from sex just like Catholic priests do, the Vatican said in a statement.

The new body for Anglicans who want to convert is called the Apostolic Constitution or, in Latin, 'Anglicanorum coetibus'.

It allows Anglicans to become Catholics while retaining some of their traditions and practices.

The Constitution comes as a response to demands from some conservative Anglicans, unhappy with progressive developments like women bishops, for an easier and larger-scale way to convert. The Holy See has previously approached the issue only on a case-by-case basis and only a handful of Anglican priests have become Catholics in recent years.

If married, they have been allowed to stay that way.

The new rules will allow bishops in too but only if they are single.

The new section of the Catholic Church was announced on October 20, taking some top Anglicans aback. A former archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, said the Anglican Church should not be treated as a ''junior partner''.

He claimed the Vatican had only given Church of England chief Rowan Williams two weeks' notice of its plan.

Pope Benedict XVI is set to receive Archbishop of Canterbury Williams on November 31.

William was already scheduled to visit Rome for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Catholic ecumenical pioneer Johannes Willebrands.

The Apostolic Constitution lays out formal procedures for unmarried bishops, married and unmarried priests and other members of the Anglican Church to join the Catholic Church.

Several hundred unhappy Anglicans are reported to be mulling a 'return to Rome'.

A conservative Anglican group called Forward With Faith has said many of its members are eager to convert because the Church of England was becoming ''the church of political correctness''.

One of its leaders, Father Geoffrey Kirk, said they objected not only to the ordination of woman but also to ''many attitudes on human sexuality'' including divorce and homosexuality.

On the Vatican side of the question, meanwhile, some observers had speculated that the arrival of more married Anglicans might eventually open a chink in the Holy See's ironclad insistence on celibacy for its own clergy.

But Monday's statement appears to have put paid to that. The Church of England is regarded as the 'mother' of all the other churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion, which considers itself to be both a product of the Reformation and also Catholic.

With some 77 million members, the Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion in the world after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

The English church was under papal authority for nearly a thousand years before splitting from Rome in 1534 when King Henry VIII was refused an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn.

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