The Archbishop of Canterbury is expected to announce this week that two Church of England bishops are becoming Roman Catholics. It will be a historic moment – but it’s fair to say that, given the choice, Dr Rowan Williams would prefer not to be involved in making this piece of history.
In the past, a few bishops have converted to Rome as private individuals and everyone has politely looked the other way. They have swum the Tiber solo, as it were. This time the Anglican prelates are stepping on to a ferry sent for them by the Pope himself. The Rt Rev Keith Newton, Bishop of Richborough, and the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, will be the first passengers. Two other bishops, the Rt Rev John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham, and the Rt Rev Edwin Barnes, retired Bishop of Richborough, are expected to follow shortly. Moreover, Benedict XVI has made it clear that there will be space on the new vessel for any number of Anglicans who want to convert together – and, crucially, stay together once they have arrived.
Bishops Newton and Burnham are leaving to join the English Ordinariate, a new structure, similar to a diocese, created for former Anglo-Catholics. Separate Ordinariates are being formed by the Vatican for traditionalists in Scotland, America, Australia and other English-speaking countries. Read more