Pakistan born Bishop Emeritus to become a Catholic Priest

A prominent and retired Church of England bishop once tipped to become a future Archbishop of Canterbury has been received into the Catholic Church, and is set to be ordained as a deacon on October 28, and a priest on October 30 this year.

Former Anglican bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali was received into the Church on Sept. 29, the feast of St. Michael the Archangel and All Angels and will be ordained a Catholic priest “in due course,” according to a statement issued by the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and the bishops’ conference of England and Wales.

Pope Benedict XVI established the personal ordinariate in 2010, a canonical structure through which Anglicans wishing to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church could do so while retaining their Anglican patrimony.

Married with two sons

Married with two sons and of dual Pakistani and British nationality, for 15 years Nazir-Ali was  the Anglican Bishop of Rochester in England. He is a prominent  defender of the Christian faith and culture and a defender of persecuted Christians.

Nazir-Ali was born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1949. His father converted from Shia Islam and he was educated in Catholic schools in Karachi. He was received into the Anglican church of Pakistan at the age of 20, ordained an Anglican vicar in 1976, and consecrated Bishop of Raiwind, Pakistan, in 1984.

He is a well known scholar, with academic awards  from the Universities of Karachi, Oxford, and Cambridge, as well as a Lambeth Doctor of Divinity.

He was the General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society. In 1999, he was  appointed Bishop of Rochester and became a member of the House of Lords. He focused on international relations, dialogue among people of different faiths, freedom of expression and speech and defense of human dignity from conception to death.

Death Threats

His sometimes outspoken comments, backed by what former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams once called his “enormous theological skill,” would occasionally cause him to clash with secular powers, particularly over Islam on which he was leading authority in the Anglican Communion.

In 2008, a year before he left Rochester, he received death threats for telling a Sunday newspaper that Islamic extremists were creating “no-go areas” for non-Muslims in Britain. He also said the church was not doing enough to convert Muslims to Christianity, and led dialogue initiatives between the Anglican Communion and Islamic academic institutions such as Al-Azhar university in Cairo and its Shia equivalent in Iran.

On his retirement in 2009, Nasir Ali has served as director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy & Dialogue (OXTRAD), whose mission is to prepare Christians for ministry in situations where the Church is under pressure and in danger of persecution.

“I’ve come to know the former bishop, soon to be Father Michael Nazir Ali, over many years because of his untiring work for the persecuted Church,” Father Kiely told a Catholic newspaper. “This will be one of the great gifts he brings to the Church: both his extensive knowledge of Islam, and his profound faith in Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man.”

“Michael Nazir-Ali’s abandonment of the Anglican project in favour of seeking full Communion with Rome through the Ordinariate is a move of monumental proportion and significance,” said Gavin Ashenden, a former Anglican vicar and honorary chaplain to the Queen who was himself received into the Catholic Church in 2019.

The former Anglican bishop said he believed the “Anglican desire to adhere to apostolic, patristic and conciliar teaching can now best be maintained in the Ordinariate,” and that he was “looking forward to receiving from the riches of other parts of the Church, while perhaps making a modest contribution to the maintenance and enhancement of Anglican patrimony within the wider fellowship.”

“Ministry in the Church of Pakistan, in the Middle East generally, in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion remains precious to me and I see this as a further step in the ministry of our common Lord and of his people,” Nazir-Ali said. “At this time, I ask for prayers as I continue to pray for all parts of the Church.”

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