The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he is perfectly happy to see Anglicans convert to Catholicism.
In an interview with The Spectator, Archbishop Justin Welby was asked about the number of Anglican clergy becoming Catholic. Some estimates, the article said, suggested that one in 10 Catholic priests in England and Wales were former Anglican vicars.
“Who cares?” Archbishop Welby replied. “I don’t mind about all that. Particularly if people go to Rome, which is such a source of inspiration.”
He explained: “I had an email from a very old friend, an Anglican priest who has decided to go to Rome. I wrote back saying: how wonderful! As long as you are following your vocation, you are following Christ. It’s just wonderful.
“What we need is for people to be disciples of Jesus Christ. I don’t really care whether it’s the Church of England or Rome or the Orthodox or Pentecostals or the Lutherans or Baptists. They are faithful disciples of Christ,” he said.
Archbishop Welby has long been seen as sympathetic to Catholicism. His spiritual director is Fr Nicolas Buttet, a Swiss Catholic priest who is founder of the Eucharistein Fraternity. The Anglican leader has described himself as a “spiritual magpie”: he speaks in tongues, but also spends time silently praying before the Eucharist and has said his prayer life owes much to St Ignatius of Loyola and the Benedictines.
In the interview, Archbishop Welby described Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster as a “very close” friend. “We see each other regularly, we pray together, we talk together,” he said.
He spoke about his regular meetings with Pope Francis. “We talk about personal things, about what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ in today’s world. I ask him questions, and he is very helpful.”
The interviewer, Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, who is Catholic, asked him if he was tempted to convert. “‘I think that might cause a little bit of upset,’ he laughs. ‘Even nowadays.’”