Calgary Anglicans First Congregation In Canada To Join Catholic Church
A congregation of conservative Anglicans in Calgary has become the first in Canada to accept an offer from the Pope to rejoin the Catholic Church.
by John Cotter
Members of the St. John the Evangelist Anglican parish voted in November in favour of the change after a year of talks with Catholic Church officials.
“We accept, unreservedly and with humility and gratitude, the invitation of His Holiness Pope Benedict to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church,” reads the motion the congregation approved.
The parish’s priest, Father Lee Kenyon, a married father of two children, was not available for comment. He posted a message Monday on the church website.
“As we go forward on our new spiritual journey, we welcome your prayers and understanding, but please respect our privacy during these trying times,” he said.
The Vatican announced last fall it was making it easier for Anglicans upset with their church’s acceptance of women priests, gay clergy and same-sex marriage to join the Catholic Church.
Anglicans split from Rome in 1534 when the pope refused to grant England’s King Henry VIII an annulment of his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, so he could marry Anne Boleyn.
The vote by the Calgary Anglicans doesn’t automatically mean they will become Catholics. Kenyon and his parishioners must take months of religious instruction before they will be allowed to officially make the switch. The Catholic Church traditionally welcomes new members at Easter.
The St. John Evangelist parish must also reach an agreement with the Anglican church on practical issues such as who owns the church building and the property on which it is located.
Officials with the Anglican Diocese of Calgary could not be reached for comment.
Catholic church welcomes parish’s decision
Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto has been appointed by the Vatican to work as the liaison for such conversions in Canada.
“We want to welcome them and express joy at their desire to become members of the Catholic community,” said Neil MacCarthy, a spokesman for the archbishop.
“At the same time we also have to recognize that there is still a process that needs to be undertaken. We are responding from a request from the community. It is not a case where we are actively trying to go after communities saying, ‘Hey, we want you to join here.””
MacCarthy said Calgary’s St. John Anglican congregation is the first parish to take such a vote in Canada, but there others expressing interest. He declined to say how many or where they are located.
In other countries where Anglicans have decided to switch, the Catholic Church has set up organizations called ordinariates that allow new members and their clergy to retain some Anglican traditions, including having married priests.
MacCarthy said it is too early to say how that might work in Canada.
“This is not something that happens overnight. This is a process that must be done well. This is a lifelong commitment so it is not something we want to fast track.”