Ex-Anglican bishops set for ordination into Catholic church

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Three former Anglican bishops are due to be ordained into the Catholic Church on Saturday, after an invitation made by Pope Benedict XVI for disgruntled Anglican faithful to switch to Rome.

In a historic move, the pontiff has offered a conversion route to Anglicans who are unhappy with Church of England moves to ordinate women and homosexual clergy.

Former Bishop of Ebbsfleet Andrew Burnham, ex-Bishop of Richborough, John Broadhurst, and John Broadhurst, who was Bishop of Fulham, will be ordained as Catholic priests at Westminster Cathedral in London this morning.

All three former bishops have opposed the appointment of women bishops and feel this affects the longer term unity of the Church.

The men will be the first to join the so-called "Ordinariate" -- which is a special section that has been set up by Benedict for disaffected Anglicans within the Roman Catholic Church.

The trio's ordination cermony, which starts at 1030 GMT, will be conducted by Archbishop Vincent Nichols.

Their conversions come four months after the pontiff visited Britain, and attempted to smooth tensions created by the offer.

Up to 50 Anglican clergy and two retired Church of England bishops are also expected to join the special division.

The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has welcomed the decision by the three serving Anglican bishops and two retired bishops "to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church".

In 2009, the Roman Catholic Church unveiled the new juridical framework that made it easier for unhappy Anglicans to join Catholic ranks.

The five bishops had said in a statement in November that they had been "dismayed, over the last 30 years, to see Anglicans and Catholics move further apart on some of the issues of the day".

They added that the Vatican offer was a "generous response to various approaches to the Holy See for help and a bold, new ecumenical instrument in the search for the unity of Christians."

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the leader of the world's Anglicans, responded that he had accepted the resignations of Burnham and Newton "with regret".

Archbishop Nichols has meanwhile paid tribute to the "sensitive" leadership of Williams over the issue.

Britain's ambassador to the Vatican feared the pope's invitation for dismayed Anglicans might spark anti-Catholic violence at home, a leaked US diplomatic cable had revealed last month.

Ambassador Francis Campbell told US diplomats that "Anglican-Vatican relations were facing their worst crisis in 150 years as a result of the pope's decision", according to the cable dated November 30, 2009.

The cable, released by WikiLeaks in December, added: "The crisis is also worrisome for England's small, mostly Irish-origin, Catholic minority," Campbell said.

"There is still latent anti-Catholicism in some parts of England and it may not take much to set it off. The outcome could be discrimination or in isolated cases, even violence, against this minority."

© 2011 AFP

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