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Breakaway Anglicans reject Pope’s offer

Archbishop Hepworth greets Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Photo: Deborah Gyapong)

The Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), the world’s largest breakaway group of Anglicans, has announced that it will not be joining a Personal Ordinariate.

The move represents an remarkable turnaround. Five years ago the group sent a letter to Rome asking for “full, corporate and sacramental union”.

At a meeting near Johannesburg, South Africa, the group’s bishops deposed its primate, Archbishop John Hepworth. They voted unanimously that he “cease to hold the office of primate immediately”.

In a statement the bishops said there was a “strong feeling” at the meeting that “a new direction had been taken by the TAC”.

They said the meeting was “long overdue”. Their statement said: “Over the past two years, several members of the College of Bishops had requested of the primate an urgent meeting of the college. Anglicanorum coetibus or the Apostolic Constitution, for example, had never been discussed or debated within the College of Bishops. Meetings of the College of Bishops had, in fact, been scheduled at least twice over the past two years.

“Most recently, a meeting was called by the TAC primate for mid-2011. This meeting was cancelled abruptly by the primate. Accordingly, the meeting in Johannesburg was voted to be the overdue meeting of the College of Bishops,” the bishops said.

They said they had appointed Archbishop Samuel Prakash, one of the TAC’s founders, as acting primate.

Archbishop Hepworth announced in December that he would step down this year, saying that “considerable dissension” had arisen within the TAC.

Earlier last year he alleged that he had been sexually abused and raped by two priests while he was a seminarian and young Catholic priest in southern Australia. The Melbourne archdiocese has apologised and given him $75,000 in compensation, but the Archdiocese of Adelaide has dismissed his claims.

In 2007, at a meeting in Portsmouth, England, the TAC bishops agreed to send a letter to Rome asking to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church. It was understood that they had accepted the teachings of the Catechism and that Archbishop Hepworth had offered to step down to the level of a priest.

The TAC says it has about 400,000 members and has branches in North America, Ireland, southern Africa, Australia, India and Japan.