The head of the Church of England, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury met privately in Rome with Pope Benedict XVI on Nov. 18.
The meeting comes at an awkward time in relations between the Church of England and the Catholic Church.
On Nov. 8, five Anglican bishops announced they were resigning their posts to enter the Catholic Church under special terms outlined last year by Pope Benedict.
One of the five, Bishop John Broadhurst of Fulham, told the London Times, that he believed thousands, not hundreds, of laity would follow them into the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Williams had already been scheduled to visit Rome to take part in 50th anniversary celebrations of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
However, his meeting with the Pope recalled one held in Rome almost exactly one year ago — after the Pope had released his plans to create “personal ordinariates” for Anglicans seeking to come over to Rome.
Details of this latest meeting have not been released. Archbishop Williams did address the conversions in an interview with Vatican Radio Nov. 18.
He said he was “deeply skeptical” about the “larger claims” of a massive exodus of Anglicans to Rome.
Asked about the Pope’s invitation to Anglicans and his creation of personal ordinariates, Archbishop Williams said: “I don’t see it as an aggressive act, meant to destabilize the relations of the churches, and it remains to be seen just how large a movement we’re talking about.”
For the first time, Archbishop Williams suggested that worshipers who join the ordinariate could be allowed to stay in their Anglican churches under a plan to let Roman Catholics share Church of England facilities.
The process is just getting underway and the parameters for new dioceses to be composed of former Anglicans, called "personal ordinariates," are still up in the air. By way of these ordinariates Anglicans will be able to "cross over" singly or en masse into the Catholic Church while retaining their liturgical traditions.
Through direct communication between the bishops and the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the first could be created in the United Kingdom in 2011.