(Damian Thomson's Holy Smoke, Telegraph.co.uk)
The Catholic Church will expand its provision of "Anglican Use" parishes in the United States in order to allow whole communities of traditionalist Anglicans into the Roman fold, a senior Catholic archbishop has announced.
Pope Benedict on a recent visit ot the Yankee Stadium in New York
The Most Rev John J Myers, Archbishop of Newark and Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision, told a conference of ex-Anglicans on Friday that "we are working on expanding the mandate of the Pastoral Provision [of Catholic parishes using Anglican-inspired services] to include those clergy and faithful of 'continuing Anglican communities'.
"We are striving to increase awareness of our apostolate to Anglican Christians who desire to be reconciled with the Holy See. We have experienced the wonder of several Episcopal bishops entering into full communion with the Catholic Church and we continue to receive requests from priests and laity about the Pastoral Provision."
This is big news, and makes nonsense of the claim that Pope Benedict wants to dissuade Anglo-Catholics from converting. The obvious interpretation of the Archbishop's words is that the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), a "continuing church" which has hundreds of thousands of members worldwide (though few in the UK), will eventually be given its own Catholic parishes which use a Eucharistic Prayer incorporating Cranmerian language.
This possibility has existed since the 1970s, but Archbishop Myers indicates that it is only now - under a sympathetic Pope, and during the break-up of the Anglican Communion - that the Pastoral Provision is entering a new dimension.
If Rome is expanding its network of ex-Anglican parishes in America, then we can rest assured that it is sympathetic to the notion of group conversion in England. The Vatican is well aware that such a process is likely to be complicated and patchy; no one is naive enough to assume that entire parishes will "bring their buildings with them".
But the plan to found a priestly Fellowship of St Gregory the Great for ex-Anglican clergy and members of their flock seems eminently feasible, given imagination on the part of both sides - and the courage to defy the Tabletistas who would try to sabotage the scheme.
Hat tip to Perpetua for drawing my attention to Archbishop Myers's announcement, a truly remarkable development.