A group of “traditional Anglicans” in Australia has voted to accept the recent invitation of Pope Benedict XVI to convert to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, whilst retaining their membership of the Anglican Church.
Meeting in Melbourne on Feb. 13, the Australian branch of Forward in
Faith, which comprises many members of the international anglo-catholic
grouping called the Traditional Anglican Communion, “received with
gratitude” the Pope’s invitation to join Rome. They decided unanimously
to establish a working group to enable the process to move forward.
The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported on Feb. 16 that
the vote represents a world first for any Anglican group to accept the
The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference has appointed Bishop Peter
J. Elliott, auxiliary bishop of Melbourne, as a special delegate for the
project to establish an order in Australia by which the Catholic Church
can provide pastoral oversight for Anglicans who join it.
Under the terms of an announcement in October 2009, Pope Benedict
invited disaffected Anglicans to convert to Catholicism. He offered them
an “Ordianariate”, which allows them to enter into full communion with
the Catholic Church while maintaining distinctive elements of Anglican
spiritualty and ethos.
The Pope’s October Anglicanorum Ceotibus was widely interpreted as a way
for disaffected Anglicans to re-join Rome, whist remaining within the
At its special Melbourne meeting, Forward in Faith pledged to work with
Elliot by establishing an “Australian Ordianariate,” and to establish a
process for the union to take place”.
Writing to the anglo-catholic community through the Australian
Traditional Anglican Communion newsletter, Elliott said the Pope, “is
reaching out to give you a special place within the Catholic Church –
united in communion but not absorbed”.
“(As) Catholics in full communion with the Successor of St Peter, you
will be gathered in distinctive communities that preserve elements of
Anglican worship, spirituality and culture that are compatible with
Catholic faith and morals. Each Ordianarate will be an autonomous
structure, like a diocese,” Elliott wrote.
Commenting on the vote in Melbourne, the head of Forward in Faith, the
Rev. David Robarts, told the Sydney newspaper The Daily Telegraph, “We
are not shifting the furniture, we are simply saying that we have been
faithful Anglicans upholding what Anglicans have always believed, and we
are not wanting to change anything but we have been marginalised by
people who want to introduce innovations.” He added, “We need to have
bishops that believe what we believe.”
Some of the central complaints of the disaffected group include the
ordination of women as priests, and what they say is the Anglican
Church’s acceptance of homosexual practice and marriage, and liberal
At the time of the announcement of the Pope’s plan to allow
disillusioned Anglicans back into the Catholic fold, the Anglican
archbishop of Melbourne, Philip Freier, called the departure,
“regrettable but . a matter of conscience”.
The Traditional Anglican Communion, established in 1991, is an
international grouping of Anglicans independent of the Anglican
Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is believed to have about
half a million members worldwide.