Catholic Church reaches out to Anglicans

Pope Benedict XVI has created a new structure for Anglicans who wish to join the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict XVI has created a new structure for Anglicans who wish to join the Roman Catholic Church.

The move comes after requests to the Vatican from more conservative, traditional Anglicans, said Joseph Cardinal Levada, the Vatican's chief doctrinal official.

Cardinal Joseph Levada, the Vatican's chief doctrinal official, speaks at a news conference at the Vatican, on Tuesday. ((Domenico Stinellis/Associated Press))
Many Anglicans have become disillusioned with the more open stance of their church in recent years, including its ordination of women, election of openly gay bishops and blessing of same-sex unions in the 77-million strong Anglican Communion.

Levada said Tuesday the new legal entities would allow Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church while keeping their Anglican identity and liturgical traditions.

The entities will be units within local Catholic churches. They will be headed by former Anglican prelates for Anglicans who want to convert.

The new provision also allows for married Anglican priests to become ordained Catholic priests. However, they will not be allowed to become Catholic bishops.

Speaking in Vatican City, Levada said the new measures will "facilitate a kind of corporate reunion of Anglican groups" into the Roman Catholic Church.

Anglicans broke away from the Catholic Church in 1534, when England's King Henry VIII was denied a marriage annulment.

"Those Anglicans who have approached the Holy See have made clear their desire for full, visible unity in the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church," Levada said. "At the same time, they have told us of the importance of their Anglican traditions of spirituality and worship for their faith journey."

The head of the Anglican Church, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, said he did not think the move would damage relations between the two organizations.

"I do not think this constitution will be seen as in any sense a commentary on Anglican problems offered by the Vatican," Williams said at a press conference held jointly with Most Rev. Vincent Nichols, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

With files from The Associated Press