Episcopal Parish in Md. Converts to Catholicism

Tuesday, 07 Jun 2011 10:44 AM

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An Episcopal parish in Maryland has become the first congregation in the United States to convert to Catholicism under new Vatican rules. The church and its pastor made the move under regulations that Pope Benedict XVI adopted to appeal to Protestants, The Washington Post reported.

St. Luke Church in Bladensburg has a majority of members from Africa and the Caribbean. Under the Vatican rules, the church will retain some of its Anglican traditions, including keeping its married pastor, the Rev. Mark Lewis, the Post reported.

Pope Benedict, Episcopalians, convert
Pope Benedict XVI approved the invitation to welcome Protestants into the fold. (Getty Images Photo)
Pope Benedict reached out to Anglicans in 2009, offering to let the parishes interested in Catholicism keep various traditions, including married pastors. Heading the outreach in the United States is Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Washington’s archbishop. He is to give an update on the issue next month at a meeting of bishops, the Post reported.

“We welcome the St. Luke community warmly into our family of faith . . . [noting] our shared beliefs on matters of faith while also recognizing and respecting the liturgical heritage of the Anglican Church,” the Post quoted Wuerl as saying.

Catholic Church officials believe interest is high enough that a national diocese for Anglican converts may be necessary.

However, others say the movement is small, and most breakaway congregations are leaving because of the ordination of a gay bishop. Those breakaways generally end up joining more conservative parts of the Anglican Communion, the Post reported.

Although St. Luke parish is the first to convert under Pope Benedict’s rules, three Episcopal churches in Texas converted to Catholicism in the 1980s under a system that Pope John Paul II created. The churches were placed under the local Catholic diocese. An Anglican church in Baltimore is in the process of converting but has become bogged down on property issues, the Post reported.

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