Monday, January 2, 2012

Pope sets up US structure for disaffected Anglicans

(AFP) VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has founded the first structure in the United States to encompass disaffected Episcopalian Anglicans who wish to join the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican told AFP on Monday.

Based in Houston, Texas, the "Ordinariat" -- the equivalent of a nationwide diocese -- will be led by 59-year-old Jeffery N. Steenson, a father of three who left his post as Episcopal bishop and converted to become a Catholic priest in 2009.

The Episcopal Church is the official American branch of the Anglican Communion in the US. Converts who join the new diocese, called "The Chair of St. Peter", will be full Catholics and will owe allegiance to the pope.

Informed sources estimate that initially around 100 priests and 2,000 faithful -- out of the 2.3 million Episcopalians in the United States -- will make the switch to the Catholic Church.

Married priests will be exempt from the Catholic requirement of celibacy, but single priests who convert will not then be allowed to marry.

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