In an interview with the Spanish daily “La Razon,” Father Gerard Sheehan, pastor of the Church of St. Thomas Moore, said that in his Diocese of Westminster-London, each year some 800 new Catholics are baptized or received into full communion with the Church.”
“If we apply those numbers to all of England, we can say without fear of being wrong that the Catholic Church in England receives an average of five thousand new adult members each year,” he said.
Father Sheehan said conversions reached their peak during the 90’s, when the progressive wing of the Anglican Church in the United States ordained women bishops, something unacceptable to the “conservative” wing of the Church of England. “That was a key moment,” he said, adding that “today, the number of converts is less than it was ten years ago, but when the (Anglican) Church of England accepts the ordination of women bishops, conversions will increase again.”
Father Sheehan said it was difficult to obtain concrete numbers as the Church “has always wanted to avoid giving signs of triumphalism, she does not want to publicly brag about these issues, because she does not want to offend anybody; in reality for sometime unity between the two churches has been sought, and any show in this sense could damage the road to this encounter.”
The case of Tony Blair, who visited Pope Benedict XVI recently at the Vatican amid rumors of his imminent conversion to Catholicism, is a one such case. The Vatican made no comment about the matter, and Blair told the Times that, “Things are not as resolved as they would seem.” However, everything indicates that Blair’s conversion is just a matter of time and that, out of sensitivity, the announcement of his conversion will not come until he has left office, La Razon said, adding that Blair is only the public figure of the return to the Catholic faith of thousands of British who have already begun their process of conversion, with reserve and without intermediaries.