LONDON, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Three former Church of England bishops were ordained Saturday morning as Roman Catholic priests after being received into the church, media reports said.
The three were the first Anglican clergy to join the Ordinariate, set up by Catholic Pope Benedict XVI to provide a home for traditionalist Anglicans, The Daily Telegraph reported. Under Vatican rules, married Anglican clergy can become Catholic priests but not bishops.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, presided over the ceremony at Westminster Cathedral in London.
"Many ordinations have take place in this cathedral during the 100 years of its history. But none quite like this," Nichols said in his homily. "Today is a unique occasion marking a new step in the life and history of the Catholic Church."
The three new Catholic priests are John Broadhurst, former bishop of Fulham, Keith Newton, who was bishop of Richborough, and Andrew Burnham, former bishop of Ebbsfleet. Newton told the BBC he expects as many as 50 Anglican priests to join the Ordinariate. It will function as a kind of diocese for ex-Anglicans in England and Wales.
Major sticking points for traditionalist Anglicans include the ordination of women, their possible consecration as bishops and the role of openly gay clergy in the church.
Priests who convert will lose their stipends. Churches and other real estate will remain the property of the Church of England, and some members of conservative parishes are likely to stay in the Church of England.