by Angus Macdonald ANN Widdecombe MP, minister of state for social security, was formally received into the Catholic Church this week at a special early-morning service in Westminster Cathedral.
Miss Widdecombe, a lifelong Anglican, had been considering the move since last year's General Synod vote for the ordination of women in the Church of England, which she strongly opposed.
Although the formal service of reception took place at the cathedral, Miss Widdecombe also attended the scheduled sung F,astenide Mass at the crypt chapel of the House of Commons later on the same day, where friends and supporters gathered to welcome her into the Church.
Writing in last week's Catholic Herald. she revealed that it was an interview with Cardinal Basil Hume which finally decided her. "The cardinal has an authority, wisdom and humility which makes one feel a tangible link with the Early Church." she said.
Speaking in the week in which Catholic bishops will decide what sort of offer to make to Anglican priests unable to accept women priests, Miss Widdecombe added: "I like to think that I am walking across a bridge between the two communions, rather than jumping over a yawning chasm. but in my heart I know that after 11 November the bridge is horribly fragile."
The chief celebrant at both services was Fr Michael Seed, ecumenical adviser to Cardinal Hume. He said: "I was delighted to assist Ann, a good friend for several years, in her Christian pilgrimage."
Agriculture Minister John Gummer, who resigned from the General Synod after the November vote, read one of the lessons at the crypt service.