'Common ground' on Pope's move

By Beck Vass

A revelation by Pope Benedict XVI that he will allow married Anglican priests to convert to being Catholic ministers is unlikely to cause much of a stir in New Zealand, high-ranking Anglican and Catholic clergy say.

The Vatican revealed last week that an agreement had been drafted that would allow Anglican congregations to join the Catholic Church en masse.

It will also allow married Anglican priests to become Catholic pastors, although they will not be allowed to become bishops.

The new allowances come after years of tension within the Anglican church, with some members upset that women can become priests and that the church tolerates homosexuality.

Archbishop David Moxon, the senior Anglican bishop in New Zealand, said Anglicans upset with the liberal aspects of their church had written to the Pope over about 40 years, and the agreement was his allowance for them.

"He's accommodating them and that's all right with us."

Archbishop Moxon said he had not heard of anyone - priests or parishioners - converting to Catholicism in New Zealand.

"It's not too much of an issue in New Zealand. There might be a small handful of people who might consider this but I'm not aware of any myself.

"In a way, the fact that the Pope can receive a small group of traditionalist Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church without too much complication means that quite a lot of common ground exists," he said.

"Although we don't agree on everything, we agree on about 80 per cent of core doctrine."

The Catholic Bishop of Christchurch, Barry Jones, said Benedict XVI was more popular than some Popes had been and he did not believe many Catholics would have a problem with his decision.

"I think this will probably have application in other parts of the world rather than in New Zealand. We're not aware of any groups of Anglicans wanting to become part of the [Catholic] church in New Zealand."

Anglicans wanting to convert would not hold the liberal views Catholics disagreed with and there were no problems accepting them into the faith, Bishop Jones said.

"Anglicans have always been able to become Catholics ... just as Catholics have always been able to become Anglican ... It will be the very Catholic Anglicans who will be wanting to become [Catholics]."

Bishop Jones said the Pope's offer for conversion was more likely to be picked up in places such as the United States.

Bishop Jones and Archbishop Moxon described the relationships between the two faiths as excellent.

The Catholic Bishop of Auckland, Patrick Dunn, said: "Here in New Zealand we will be interested to see the papal document when it appears, but I am not aware that there are any large groups of Anglicans here in New Zealand who will be affected by such a decree."

Bishop Dunn said the Anglican and Catholic bishops would hold their annual meeting in Wellington on November 6.

"No doubt the matter will be discussed then."

A final version of the Pope's document is expected within weeks.

* Where the two churches differ

Catholicism does not allow the ordination of women. It is permitted in strands of the Anglican communion.

Catholicism considers the use of contraception a sin. The Anglican Church does not.

The Catholic Church does not recognise divorce. Anglicans say civil law must deal with the results of a marriage breakdown.

Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy. The Anglican Church allows its clergy to marry and have children.

Pope Benedict XVI has called homosexuality "a moral evil". The Anglican stance is that those who enter into homosexual relationships should be respected.

Catholics believe that it is a mortal sin to choose not to go to Mass on Sundays. However, Anglicans look on Mass or communion as a means to an end rather than a duty of faith.

- NZ Herald

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