THE HEAD of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Basil Hume, yesterday announced a relaxation in the conditions that dissident Anglican priests must comply with to join the Catholic church. He also appealed for funds to pay for an influx of such men as priests.
He said 156 Anglican priests opposed to the ordination of women had made approaches and speculated that there were others who were considering becoming Catholics. Arrangements would be made in the short-term to keep priests with those in their congregation who wished to change church.
The Cardinal said that he was travelling to Rome next month where he would talk with the Pope and Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican's expert on theological rectitude.
He would ask them for the right to vet married candidates for the priesthood - each married candidate must be approved in Rome - and for permission to use a special ordination service that would recognise their Anglican pasts.
Anglican priests who wish to become Catholic priests must be ordained again. But the Cardinal said yesterday that he understood that for many Anglican vicars on the brink of Catholicism, the hardest part to accept was that a conversion seemed to mean repudiating all their previous ministry.
The statement from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, which the Cardinal presented, said: 'We recognise in the ministry they have exercised a call from God. This is the basis for our readiness to assume a continuity of ministry, normally leading to ordination to the priesthood in the Catholic Church.'
He said that all discussion of the validity of Anglican priesthood must start from the Papal Bull Apostolicae Curiae, of 1896, which denounced Anglican orders as 'utterly null and void'.
There are eight married Catholic priests in England. None is allowed to take charge of a parish. The Cardinal would not rule out the possibility that in future there might be married Catholic parish clergy in Britain, but said the problem was financial. Parish priests in the Roman Catholic Church receive no salary.
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