Three disaffected Anglicans were ordained as Catholic priests on Saturday.
Keith Newton, Andrew Burnham and John Broadhurst – all former Anglican bishops – were welcomed into the Roman Catholic Church during a ceremony at Westminster Cathedral in London.
The three left the Church of England – the mother church of the global Anglican Communion – because they were "distressed" by the developments in the communion which they found to be "incompatible" with Christian tradition.
They may be the first of at least 50 making the switch to Roman Catholicism.
The Vatican announced in 2009 that it would introduce a new church structure that would allow former Anglicans to enter "full communion" with the Catholic Church while preserving their Anglican traditions. Pope Benedict XVI made the provision in response to the numerous requests he received from Anglicans who were unhappy with the ordination of women and noncelibate gay bishops.
Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams – the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion – has maintained that he does not view the new structure as "an aggressive act, meant to destabilize" the relations of the two global church bodies.
He also stated that he does not perceive the Vatican's move as "a commentary on Anglican problems."
Many in the Anglican Communion have declared the global body impaired, particularly since the 2003 ordination of openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Since then, a small but growing minority of parishes have severed ties with their national churches.
Separate orthodox Anglican bodies have also been established to house those unhappy with the liberal direction of the national churches, including The Episcopal Church in the U.S.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, who ordained the three men over the weekend, admitted that the ordination of former Anglican bishops was a unique one.
"Many ordinations have take place in this cathedral during the 100 years of its history. But none quite like this," he said.
He also recognized that the move has involved "painful misunderstandings, conflict and uncertainty."
But he said the establishment of the ordinariate was for the purpose of contributing to the wider goal of visible unity between the two church bodies, as reported by the Catholic Herald.
The three new Catholic priests will be responsible for helping other former Anglican clergy to prepare for full communion with the Catholic Church. Those who are married will be allowed for ordination as Catholic priests but they cannot become Catholic bishops.