Three Church of Ireland parishes have asked to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church, The Irish Catholic newspaper reports this week. The decision would pave the way for over 400,000 Anglicans to become Catholic.
The parishes, located in the counties Down, Tyrone and Laois, are members of the traditional rite of the Church of Ireland. The rite emerged in 1991 after the House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland decided to start ordaining women. Traditionalist Anglicans rejected this decision as a "defiance of both Scripture and Tradition."
A plenary meeting of the Traditional Anglican Communion, the umbrella organization for traditionalist parishes, decided to petition Rome to be received into full communion with the Holy See. While only a few hundred Anglicans in Ireland will be affected if an agreement is reached, the Traditional Anglican Communion itself has over 400,000 members who could all join the Catholic Church.
According to a statement from the Traditional Anglican Communion, "the bishops and vicars-general unanimously agreed to the text of a letter to the See of Rome seeking full, corporate, sacramental union."
A spokesman said "the letter was cordially received at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
"The Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion has agreed that no member of the College will give interviews until the Holy See has considered the letter and responded," he said.
This petition for corporate communion is very rare, though there have been many individual conversions. Recently the wife of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Killala, Anita Henderson, was received into the Catholic Church in a private ceremony.
In cases of American Protestant ministers converting to Catholicism, a "pastoral provision" allows some married ministers to be ordained as priests. "Anglican Use" Catholic Parishes also use a liturgy similar to that of Anglican Christians. It is not yet clear what accommodations may be made for Traditional Anglican Communion parishes.