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Former Anglican bishop who became Catholic is made “Monsignor” by Pope Francis

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Mazur/ | Catholic Church England and Wales | Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Zelda Caldwell - published on 04/12/22

Fr. Michael Nazir-Ali was ordained to the priesthood in October, shortly after leaving the Church of England.

Fr. Michael Nazir-Ali, a former Anglican bishop, may now go by the honorific “Monsignor.” Only seven months after becoming a Catholic, the priest, known for his work promoting interfaith dialogue, received the title of “Prelate of Honor to His Holiness” from Pope Francis last week. 

The title of “Monsignor” in the Catholic Church is an honorary one, given to a priest who distinguishes himself in such a way as to be recognized by the pope for his service to the Church.  

Msgr. Nazir-Ali serves as president of OXTRAD, the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue, which works to train Christians to engage in dialogue in areas of the world where they face persecution. According to their website, OXTRAD aims to meet “the growing challenge of international religious extremism, terrorism and ideological secularism faced today by Christian leaders and the churches they lead.”

From Anglican to Catholic

Following his reception into the Catholic Church in September, Msgr. Nazi-Ali was ordained a priest in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in October. He was one of four former Anglican bishops who became Catholics in 2021.

The Ordinariate was established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 to allow groups of Anglicans and their clergy to enter the Catholic Church together. It was created in response to requests from those who wanted to be in full Communion with the Roman Catholic Church, but who wished to preserve elements of their Anglican culture. 

The Tablet reported that Mgr. Nazir-Ali, said, “It is very generous of the Holy Father to confer this honor on me which I hardly deserve. Please pray that I will be worthy of it.”

As an Anglican, Msg. Nazir-Ali served as Bishop of Rochester, England, from 1994 to 2009. He was active in promoting interfaith dialogue and ecumenism. Born in Pakistan, he comes from a family of Christians and Muslims. He and his wife Valerie have two adults sons.

In an article in the April 2022 edition of First Things magazine, Msgr. Nazir explained the reasons for his conversion. 

Because the Anglican Church “capitulated to contemporary Western culture in ways that compromise divine revelation itself,” he wrote, he turned to the Catholic Church for the authority of her magisterial teachings. He cited the decision to ordain a practicing homosexual as bishop as one example of the Anglican Church’s deficiency and lack of authority. 

In the article he also cited a number of gifts Anglicans bring to the Catholic Church, including biblical scholarship and “a desire to witness to the Christian story in the public square, and moral reflection that arises from wide social involvement rather than just the needs of the ­confessional or the pastor’s study.”

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