by Angus Macdonald and Cristina Odone CARDINAL Basil Hume has been explaining the options before Anglicans unable to accept women's ordination, to the priests of his archdiocese at a series of secret meetings over the last month.
The cardinal has held three meetings with about 200 priests from the Westminster Archdiocese in order to give them an opportunity to raise questions regarding the practical aspectsof the Anglican traditionalists' move to Rome. Anglo-Catholic sources told the Catholic Herald this week.
The cardinal's talks, which concluded last Friday, have come in advance of the Catholic Bishops' Low Week meeting, when proposals for the "Rome option" a special rite guaranteeing a home within the Catholic Church for Anglicans unable to accept women priests are expected to receive a favourable reception from the Catholic hierarchy.
Senior Anglo-Catholic sources are convinced that the plan which would allow Anglican clergy to minister within the Catholic Church, but retain "significant elements of their own tradition" has the backing of many Catholic bishops in England and Wales as well as figures "at the highesi level" in the Vatican.
At their meeting next week. the bishops will be discussing the plan, before deciding whether to recommend it to higher authorities in Rome, who will have the final say.
Sources have suggested that the new rite would allow Anglican priests including those who are already married to be "conditionally ordained". Such a move would be a way round the obstacle of Catholic nonrecognition of Anglican orders.
Bishop Graham Leonard. former Anglican Bishop of London, said this week that many Catholic bishops he had spoken to were "encouraging and sympathetic" about the plan. He said he understood there had been a "favourable reaction" from Rome.
Bishop Leonard. who first proposed a form of "Anglican rite" in an article in the Catholic Herald last November, said he was "enormously encouraged" by the reception the Catholic Church had given to his ideas. "I never thought when I wrote my article that it would lead this far."
It is thought that up to 1,000 Anglican priests could adopt the new rite, if it is approved, though there is unlikely to be a "mass conversion".