Michael Nazir-Ali, Former Anglican Bishop of Rochester defects to Roman Catholic Church


By Simon Caldwell

A high-profile Anglican bishop has joined the Catholic Church in what has been described as “one of the most politically significant conversions for a very long time”.

The reception of Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Anglican Bishop of Rochester, represents the third English episcopal conversion to the Catholic faith this year and the fourth in the last two years.

The bishop has already been received and will soon be ordained a priest in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, sources have revealed to the Catholic Herald.

His move is due to be formally announced by the Archdiocese of Westminster on Tuesday next week.

Neither Bishop Nazir-Ali nor Monsignor Keith Newton, the Ordinary of the Ordinariate, were available for comment but a source which confirmed the bishop’s decision, which was leaked from Rome, described it as “one of the most dramatic and politically significant conversions for a very long time”.

It comes just a month after Jonathan Goodall, the former “flying” Bishop of of Ebbsfleet, stepped down from office to become a Catholic following a period of reflection which, he said, was “among the most testing periods of my life”.

In May, John Goddard, the former Bishop of Burnley, was received into the Catholic Church in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool, while Dr Gavin Ashenden, a former royal chaplain to the Queen and traditionalist Anglican bishop, was received into the faith at Shrewsbury Cathedral at Christmas 2019.

Bishop Nazir-Ali, 72, was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and was sent to a Catholic school by his father, who had converted to Christianity from Shia Islam.

He started to call himself a Christian from the age of 15 and was formally received into the Anglican Church at the age of 20.

He studied at Cambridge University and served in parishes in Karachi and Lahore after his ordination in 1976.

He became the youngest bishop in the Anglican Communion when he was ordained Bishop of Raiwind in West Punjab in 1984 but was brought to the UK by Archbishop Robert Runcie when his life was deemed to be danger.

Appointed to Rochester in 1994, Bishop Nazir-Ali soon became one of the best recognised voices in the Church of England, considering himself both Catholic and Evangelical, staunchly pro-life and a firm believer in marriage and the family. He is married with two children.

It is widely believed that, along with Rowan Williams, he was one of two names presented to Tony Blair as a possible successor to George Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury.

The bishop has served for many year as a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission and also of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission.

He retired from Rochester in 2009 and since 2010 has served as the visiting Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina in the United States.

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