Archbishop Philip Freier
The Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne Philip Freier says it would be regrettable if some of the church's clergy joined the Catholic Church, while Traditional Anglican Communion leader Archbishop John Hepworth, says he expects many Australian Anglo-Catholics to leave.
ABC reports Archbishop Freier saying he estimates up to 30 Melbourne clergy consider themselves to be Anglo-Catholics, and "if people have a decision on conscience, I'd want to respect that because I think that we're fortunate to live in a society where our religious beliefs are a matter of principle and conscience."
Archbishop Hepworth said disagreement over female priesthood is one reason Anglicans are split.
"We simply say that priesthood is reserved for males and we say that in conjunction with the world's Catholic Church and the Churches of the East," he said.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Chair of the Bishops Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Relations, Bishop Michael Putney, said in a separate statement on Wednesday that the Vatican announcement followed petitions received over a four or five year period from different Anglican groups.
"There has always been a practice of receiving into full communion individual Anglicans through the centuries, but this new provision will make it possible for groups or communities to enter full communion and remain together," said Bishop Putney.
The Age newspaper cited Anglo-Catholic bishops of the mainstream Anglican Church, Ross Davies of the Murray and Michael Hough of Ballarat, saying that many Australian Anglicans would find the Pope's offer attractive.
Bishop Davies reportedly called it the most significant decision about the two churches since the 16th century Reformation.
"It's really radical," he said. "I'm shocked and pleased. It will allow Anglo-Catholics a way to leave with dignity, and the Anglican Church can get on with its real fight between evangelicals and liberals."
He, however, doesn't expect "a great stampede". The report said that Bishop Hough, who was a Catholic priest before becoming Anglican, would remain Anglican.
Other Melbourne Anglo-Catholic priests said they would have to see the details before deciding what they would do.
Kooyong priest Christopher Seton said he and many others would be strongly tempted.
"Evangelical and liberal Anglicans treat us as a dotty old aunt, locked up in the attic and forgotten while they wait for us to die," he said in The Age.
"This is a moment of grace, a chance to put things right for holy Christians who have had their faith broken and lives wrecked by the betrayal of the faith in this country."
FULL STORY AND STATEMENT
'Regrettable' if Anglican clergy leave for Catholic church (ABC)
Anglicans to be welcomed into Catholic Church (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference)
Anglo-Catholics rejoice as Pope offers return to fold (The Age)