Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester and one of the best-known Anglican clerics, could be ordained as a Catholic priest as early as next month.
The conversion of such a high-profile intellectual would be an enormous boost for the Catholic Ordinariate, set up by Pope Benedict XVI to receive Anglicans into the Roman church. Friends of Nazir-Ali say that he has already converted and is now a member of the Ordinariate which over the years has seen several Anglican clergy, many of them married, serve as Catholic priests. Its services are distinctively Anglican in style and include passages from the Book of Common Prayer.
Pakistan-born Nazir-Ali, 72, was Bishop of Rochester from 1994 until 2009, when he resigned his post to set up a centre in Oxford dedicated to promoting orthodox evangelism and dialogue with other faiths.
A dual citizen of Britain and Pakistan, he was the Anglican Communion’s leading authority on Islam and an expert on the intricacies of Sharia and Islamic banking. He has been trenchantly critical of the British establishment’s appeasement of Muslim fundamentalists and is profoundly out of sympathy with the entrenched bureaucratic mindset of the leadership of the Church of England.
Reports suggest that, at the end of this month, Nazir-Ali will be ordained a Catholic priest by Cardinal Vincent Nichols. Significantly, the ceremony is scheduled to take place in the Ordinariate’s church in Warwick Street, Soho, rather than in Westminster Cathedral.
Because he is married, Nazir-Ali cannot be ordained a Catholic bishop – although, before the Ordinariate was set up, Pope Benedict seriously considered allowing him to become one. Nazir-Ali is a fervent admirer of the Pope Emeritus. Although identified with the evangelical wing of the Church of England, he has always been well disposed to Roman Catholicism, having been educated by Catholics as a child in Karachi.
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The Guardian had this report on him a few years ago, noting:
During his tenure as bishop, Nazir-Ali has courted controversy with some provocative remarks.
He received death threats for saying in a Sunday newspaper that Islamic extremists were creating “no-go areas” for non-Muslims in Britain. He was also quoted as claiming the church was not doing enough to convert Muslims to Christianity.