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LONDON (RNS) Three former Church of England bishops, disaffected by their church’s ordination of women, have been ordained as priests in the Roman Catholic Church under a new special section created by the Vatican.
Their ordination as Catholic priests at London’s Westminster Cathedral was confirmed Saturday (Jan. 15), two weeks after they were formally received into the Vatican’s ranks.

The three—former Richborough Bishop Keith Newton, former Ebbsfleet Bishop Andrew Burnham and ex-bishop of Fulham John Broadhurst—quit the Anglican Church in protest over women’s ordination and the likelihood of women becoming bishops.

The Catholic Church created a new religious home for the rebels in a special section called the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, intended specifically for Anglicans who want to become Catholics while still retaining aspects of their Anglican heritage.

Newton, whom Pope Benedict XVI named as leader of the new ordinariate, suggested to journalists that as many as 50 other Anglican clerics and members of as many as 30 congregations might become Catholics in the coming months.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, conducted the ordination of the three men, whom he conceded had experienced “some parting of friends” in their decision to abandon the Anglican Communion.

But he described their switch as “a unique occasion marking a new step in the life and history of the Catholic Church.”

Under the new rules, the three men will be allowed to stay married but cannot be elevated to bishops in the Catholic Church.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the global, 77-million strong Anglican Communion, had already accepted the resignations of Newton, Burnham and Broadbent “with regret.”

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