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Talks in Rome on Apostolic Constitution confirmed

A spokesman for the Church of England has declined to comment on the visit of three Anglican bishops to the Vatican last week for talks about the new Apostolic Constitution which will pave the way for Anglican clergy to join the Catholic Church.

However, the Anglican Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Rev Keith Newton, confirmed he and two other bishops held exploratory talks in Rome.

Last October, Pope Benedict paved the way for thousands of Anglicans to join the Catholic Church while maintaining elements of their own spiritual heritage through a new Apostolic Constitution.

Anglicanorum Coetibus will allow groups of Anglican clergy and faithful who wish to enter into full communion with Rome to do so while preserving elements of their distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical life.

Its annoucement followed threats by traditionalists within the Church of England that they could leave over issues such as the consecration of women bishops and gay priests.

When asked about last week’s talks, the Church of England Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev John Brtoadhurst said he did not wish to comment, while the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Rt Rev Andrew Burnham was unavailable.

The Rt Rev Keith Newton of Richborough confirmed last week’s trip had taken place but added it was “simply to explore” the nature of the Apostolic Constitution.

The three bishops are known to be traditionalists.

Vatican spokesman, Fr Frederico Lombardi refused to confirm the talks.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph has reported that an email sent by the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, earlier this year revealed the delicate nature of their talks.

It quoted him as writing: “This is not known about fully in England and Wales because we are trying to ensure that the whole Anglicanorum Coetibus project, which will begin in small ways, is not smothered by the management anxieties of a hierarchy, some of whom think that Anglicans are best off doing what they are presently doing and some of whom think the project would impact adversely on the Catholic Church in England… Hence the cloak and dagger.”

Following the Pope’s offer in October, the Bishops of Richborough, Ebbsfleet and the Rt Rev John Broadhurst, the Bishop of Fulham, issued a statement revealing that two of them had visited the Vatican in 2008.

“We were becoming increasingly concerned that the various agendas of the Anglican Communion were driving Anglicans and Roman Catholics further apart,” they said. “It was our task, we thought, to take the opportunity of quietly discussing these matters in Rome.

“We were neither the first nor the last Anglicans to do this in recent years.”

“Following the decision of General Synod of the Church of England in July 2008 to proceed with the ordination of women to the episcopate, we appealed to the Holy Father for help and have patiently awaited a reply.

“This Apostolic Constitution, addressed worldwide, feels to us to be a reply to concerns raised by others and by us and an attempt to allow all those who seek unity with the Holy See to be gathered in without loss of their distinctive patrimony.”

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