THE Vatican has ordered a Victorian bishop to withdraw an offer to let Anglicans ordain deacons in a Catholic church tomorrow because four of the seven are women.
Bendigo Catholics and Anglicans have both expressed sadness at the decision, which comes a month after Pope Benedict XVI told Anglicans they were welcome to become Catholics and keep their Anglican identity.
Sandhurst Bishop Joe Grech offered Bendigo Anglican Bishop Andrew Curnow use of the city's oldest Catholic church for the celebratory service because the Anglican cathedral is closed for repairs.
Bishop Grech said yesterday that he had checked widely before offering St Kilian's, and had the approval of the Papal Nuncio (ambassador), Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto.
But he was ordered to withdraw the offer by a Vatican department - he did not want to say which - after a Catholic complained to Rome about the planned service.
''It had wider ramifications, and the conclusion was it was better not to have it,'' Bishop Grech said.
''I was saddened, obviously. I was disappointed I couldn't help more, but there is tremendous rapport between us and the Anglicans. They know it's not a snub, it's the doctrine of the church.''
Sandhurst Vicar-General John White also said he was disappointed. ''We believe we have a very good working relationship with the Anglicans, and there was no way we were endorsing their theological stance for the ordination of women - it was a generous offer to help when they could not use their own facility.''
Local Catholics criticised the decision and apologised to Anglicans in letters to the Bendigo Advertiser. Beryl Rokesky wrote: ''I was ashamed to call myself a Catholic … Contrary to what we were taught in Catholic schools, Catholics aren't the only ones who will end up in heaven.''
Peter Bugden wrote that the decision was evidence that the Roman Curia was concerned with power and control, and that Christianity had been usurped by Churchianity.
Anglican Bishop Curnow is on retreat with the seven ordinands and could not be contacted.
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