Even as the Pope finally decided to allow groups of disaffected Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Holy See while retaining their Anglican heritage and traditions, the head of Kenya’s Anglican Church, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, has rejected the Pope’s offer.
Under the plan, the Pope will issue an apostolic constitution, a form of papal decree, that will lead to the creation of “personal ordinariates” for Anglicans who convert to Rome.
The decision by Pope is being interpreted by different groups in different ways. While some British groups believe that the decision by Rome is stunning and potentially deadly blow to an already troubled and fragile Anglican Communion.
At the Venerable English College in a cobbled Rome side street, the home of British Catholic seminarians since the 16th century, reactions were cautious. “It all depends what the Vatican means when it says Anglicans who join us can bring their traditions with them,” said one guest at the opening of an exhibition celebrating the College’s history. “It is all a bit sudden.“
“A lot of things are unclear, including the consequences of this move,” said Andrea Tornielli, Pope Benedict’s biographer. “It is aimed after all not just at the traditionalists but at all Anglicans. I find it odd that the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales do not seem to have been consulted, and that the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity – which oversees the ecumenical dialogue for the Vatican – has been sidelined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.“
On the other hand this decision was largely welcomed in Rome. It is believed to be a move that would help to heal the 500-year-old post-Reformation schism. At the same time some Vatican watchers said it could even in the long run affect the Catholic Church as much as the Anglican Communion.
The Pope has made the decision to allow “full-communion” but there is confusion among groups on issues of disconnect between the Catholic Church and Anglicans. The main issues of contention between the Anglicans worldwide are on issues like homosexuality and the ordination of women. Issues that highlighted the discord range from the election of an openly gay bishop and the blessing of same-sex unions.
However, Archbishop Wabukala told the BBC’s Network Africa programme there was “no possibility” of his becoming a Catholic.
“The Protestant family understands faith in different ways, for example, the idea of the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, the interpretation of ministry,” he said.
He said his fellow African Anglican bishops were “deeply evangelical“.
Ugandan Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi has also said Pope Benedict’s measure was not called for in the African Anglican Church, which he said had successfully resisted liberalism from Western countries.
While the Anglican community want to carry on with their traditions to which Pope agrees groups of Catholic canon lawyers had a different view.
Some Catholic canon lawyers wonder how Pope Benedict will square Anglican and Catholic teachings on issues such as priestly celibacy. Cardinal Levada on the other hand made clear that Catholic rules on celibacy would not change – and neither would the Vatican ban on female ordination. Asked what would happen if an Anglican parish led by a woman priest asked to convert to Rome under the new rules, he replied drily “I would be very surprised“.
Amidst all the speculations, acceptances and denials; experts also believe that this may see as many as 1,000 priests quitting the Church of England and thousands more from churches in America and Australia after this decision from Rome.