Anglican rebels 'in Vatican meeting'

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The Independent Online

The Church of England declined to comment yesterday on a report that senior bishops held talks with Vatican officials over the crisis-hit Anglican Communion.

The clergymen met senior advisers of Pope Benedict XVI to discuss homosexual priests and women bishops, according to a Sunday newspaper. They are said to have expressed dismay at the Church of England's "liberal" direction. The reports came ahead of a crunch vote at today's General Synod, the Church of England's ruling body, on how far to accommodate parishes which oppose women bishops.

Refusing to be drawn on the claims, a Church of England spokesman said it was one of a "plethora" of stories. He said it will be down to the Synod to decide the way ahead for the church.

Up to 600 clergy have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, warning that they might leave the church if safeguards such as dioceses for opponents of women bishops are not set up.

Dr Williams, who was reportedly not informed about the Vatican talks, drew attention yesterday to the "agonies and complexities" facing the church over homosexual priests and female bishops.

In a sermon at York Minster, during a communion service attended by members of the General Synod, he said he believed Jesus would feel Anglicans' pain over the schism. "Jesus is going to be with those who feel the waterlessness of their position, with those traditionalists feeling the Church is slipping away from them," he said.

He added that Jesus would also be with those who "feel that their liberty of questioning is under threat. He will be with gay clergy who wonder what their future is in a church so anxious and tormented about this issue."