The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, said that supplying priests to churches would be among the "practical challenges" before the Church of England as Anglican bishops and priests defect for Rome.
Williams, the spiritual leader of the global Anglican Communion, is in Rome where he attended the 50th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity on Wednesday.
In an interview with Vatican Radio, Williams responded to the departure of five Anglican bishops who plan to join the new ordinariate to be established under the Roman Catholic Church for disaffected Anglicans seeking full communion with the Catholic Church.
He said there was no "ill feeling" between him and the five bishops who left over the ordination of women.
“Obviously my reactions to the resignations is one of regret but respect. I know the considerations they’ve been through, particularly the two who were my suffragans," Williams told the radio.
"We’ve talked about it, we’ve worked through it and parted with prayers and blessings so there’s no ill feeling there."
"I think the challenge is going to come in sorting out what is really going to be possible for shared use of churches, working out perhaps some of the challenges on how we as Anglicans 'recommend' people, and of course there will be at least some parishes that will now be without priests so we have a practical challenge here and there to supply," added Williams.
The details of the ordinariate will be the subject of discussion this week among the Catholic cardinals. The structure would allow disaffected Anglicans to convert to the Roman Catholic Church but still retain certain Anglican rituals and traditions.
“Well I think if the ordinariate helps people evaluate Anglican legacy or patrimony, well ... good, I’m happy to praise God for it," commented Williams. "I don’t see it as an aggressive act, meant to destabilize the relations of the churches and it remains to be seen just how large a movement we’re talking about."
Hundreds of Anglicans including 50 clergy will be received into the Catholic Church early next year, the Daily Telegraph in London reported. The five bishops will step down from their pastoral duties at the end of this year and also join the new ordinariate.
Williams said that the converting Anglicans does not mean that traditionalist voices have left the Church of England.
“There are still a great many Anglicans in the Church of England who call themselves traditionalist who have no intention of jumping ship at this point, who are at the moment in considerable confusion and distress," he said.
“But they don’t necessarily think if the Church of England isn’t working for them that the only option is Rome.”
The five bishops leaving the Anglican Communion include three serving bishops, bishop of Ebbsfleet Andrew Burnham, bishop of Richborough Keith Newton and bishop of Fulham John Broadhurst; and two retired bishops, former bishop of Richborough Edwin Barnes, and former Australian bishop David Silk.
In a statement explaining their reasons for leaving the Church of England, the bishops said they had been "distressed" by the developments in the Anglican communion which they found to be "incompatible" with 2,000 years of Christian tradition.