Pope Benedict XVI announced plans to allow provisions that would accept groups of former Anglicans who wish to convert to the Roman Catholic Church, according to a statement from the Vatican.
The announcement yesterday (20 October 2009) signalled the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution that would allow such converts to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of Anglican spirituality and liturgy.
Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, the release said, "pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy."
The constitution would also make provisions for married former Anglican clergy to be ordained as Catholic priests, the Vatican said.
In a statement from the Episcopal Church in North America, Bishop Christopher Epting, ecumenical and interfaith officer, said that the announcement "reflects what the Roman Catholic Church, through its acceptance of Anglican rite parishes, has been doing for some years more informally ... We are in dialogue with the archbishop's office and will, in the coming days, continue to explore the full implications of this in our ecumenical relations."
Epting's statement notes that the Episcopal Church remains in dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church through participation in the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Consultation (ARCIC) and the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the USA (ARC-USA).
"We in the Episcopal Church continue to look to the Holy Spirit, who guides us in understanding of what it means to be the Church in the Anglican Tradition," Epting said.
"The Episcopal Church is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and works together with other provinces and with our ecumenical and interfaith partners to promote God's reign on earth."
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, released a joint statement at a press conference in London yesterday.
"[The] announcement of the Apostolic Constitution is a response by Pope Benedict XVI to a number of requests over the past few years to the Holy See from groups of Anglicans who wish to enter into full visible communion with the Roman Catholic Church, and are willing to declare that they share a common Catholic faith and accept the Petrine ministry as willed by Christ for his Church," they said.
"The announcement of this Apostolic Constitution brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church", the statement continued.
With acknowledgments to the Episcopal News Service USA