The Church of England voted by a large majority on Saturday, that the ordination of women as bishops is "consonant with the faith of the Church" and can be theologically justified, reported the London Telegraph.

The vote was passed by the General Synod in York despite a plea from the Vatican that the ordination of women bishops would make unity between the two Churches "unreachable" and intercommunion impossible.

In early June, Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Vatican's Council for Christian Unity, had urged the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, and his fellow bishops not to proceed toward ordaining women bishops, which would severely distance them from of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

Cardinal Kasper said while the Catholic Church would not break off talks with Anglicans, the tone of ecumenical dialogue would change and future talks would no longer have full unity as their goal.

Archbishop Williams admitted on Saturday that there would be "a heavy and serious" cost to relations with the Roman Catholic Church as a result of the vote.

Some bishops, fearful that the move would threaten the Church of England's relationship with other denominations, urged the General Synod to reject the motion.

Bishop Peter Forster of the Anglican diocese of Chester had warned the vote was premature. "We have not had enough dialogue and are at risk of jeopardizing our unity," he said. "We don't want to have a divided episcopate."

Regardless, the motion won strong backing from bishops and clergy. It did not, however, receive the level of support from the laity that it will need to get final approval.

Archbishop Williams asked the synod yesterday to set up a group to write a draft measure that would include the proposal but also appease traditionalists within the church.