A senior adviser to the Queen met secretly with the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales to express concern over the Pope's offer for disaffected Anglicans to convert to Rome.

In a highly unusual step, Earl Peel, the Lord Chamberlain, asked Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols to meet him in November, a fortnight after Pope Benedict XVI's decree.

The Vatican announcement shocked the Church of England and was widely seen as designed to poach Anglican clergy.

The Queen, who is the Church's Supreme Governor, was not warned of the move.