First Church of England female bishop ordination, 'historic moment' says Catholic archbishop

(Photo: REUTERS / Phil Noble)The first female bishop in the Church of England Libby Lane bows to her fellow bishops following her consecration service at York Minster in York, northern England January 26,

The Catholic archbishop of Birmingham has called the ordination of the Church of England's first female bishop "historic moment in the life" of the Anglican denomination and he has wished her well whilst giving cautious remarks about the event.

Archbishop Bernard Longley is the Catholic co-chair of ARCIC, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.

He told Vatican Radio noted that the consecration of Bishop Libby Lane on January 26 is part of the "the presence, the witness and the work of women" as bishops within the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Rev. Libby Lane was ordained in York Minister as the new Bishop of Stockport, after the Church of England in November voted to adopt legislation to allow women bishops.

No Catholic bishops were present at the ordination despite their presence at many Anglican ceremonies.

Archbishop Longley said that while the ordination of women presents challenges to the Anglican-Catholic dialogue, this latest development "shouldn't affect the way in which the dialogue is continued."

Some tradionalists in the Church of England still oppose the ordination of a female bishop for the first time in the 500 year history of the church.

For its part, the 1.2 billion strong Roman Catholic Church does not ordain women as priests or bishops.

Longley said there is a personal response and an ecclesial dimension to the ordination of Bishop Libby Lane which is likely to be up for discussion when ARCIC holds its next meeting near Rome in May.

At a local level, he says, it will also be of significance as Catholics prepare to work more closely with women bishops over the coming years.

Longley noted that the conversation about women's ministry continues in parts of the Catholic Church, but the ordination of Bishop Lane is unlikely to bring about changes in the Catholic teaching on the sacrament of ordination.

Archbishop Longley also speaks about the importance of praying together for Christian unity and about the possibility of sharing the Eucharist in specific situations.

He cited the example of an Anglican mother who was able to receive the Eucharist in a Catholic Church during her son's ordination.

Longley said Catholic bishops and clergy have a responsibility to make these norms better known, since they also deepen the communion of other Christians with the Catholic Church

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