22 Nov 2009

Pledge for closer ties between Catholics and Anglicans

8:08 am on 22 November 2009

The Pope and the spiritual leader of the Anglican Church have agreed to press for closer relations between Roman Catholics and Anglicans, the Vatican has announced.

Pope Benedict and Archbishop Rowan Williams have met in Rome, a month after the pontiff announced he is setting up a special section within Catholicism for disenchanted Anglicans.

The Pope's proposal would allow Anglicans to convert while preserving many of their traditions and practices, the BBC reports.

Many Anglicans had not wanted the archbishop to come to Rome, arguing that the Catholic Church was trying to poach members of the Anglican faith.

Before the meeting Dr Williams played down the differences, saying issues like women priests and bishops were of secondary importance, and that more united the two churches than divided them.

A brief statement from the Vatican afterwards said the discussions were cordial and were focused on recent events between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

Dr Williams, who is head of the 70 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion, has said he does not believe the initiative will harm relations.

Under the terms of the Pope's proposed Apostolic Constitution, groupings of Anglicans would be able to join "personal ordinariates".

This would allow them to enter full communion with the Catholic Church, which has more than 1 billion members worldwide, but also preserve elements of the Anglican traditions.

The first English clergy could convert early next year.