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Former Anglican bishop ordained as Catholic priest


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

John Burger - published on 11/03/21

Fr. Michael Nazir-Ali looks forward to working with persecuted Christians around the world.

The former Anglican Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, who was once considered a possible Archbishop of Canterbury, was ordained to the Catholic priesthood last week.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster ordained Fr. Nazir-Ali at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory in central London on Saturday, October 30. A month earlier, Nazir-Ali, 72, became a Catholic, as a member of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

In a homily, Cardinal Nichols described the ordination as a “moment of great joy” and said Fr. Nazir-Ali’s “insight and learning” would enrich the mission of the Catholic Church.

“For you, Michael, this journey has been rich indeed, in its geography, in your journey of learning, of prayer, of public ministry and of decision,” Cardinal Nichols said. “We welcome you most warmly on this day, especially into the very unique company of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.”

The Ordinariate was set up by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 to allow Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church as groups rather than on an individual basis, and to do so without abandoning their Anglican traditions and heritage. Nazir-Ali  told the BBC that the Ordinariate “brings together this relation with the wider Catholic Church but also allows us to continue our Anglican way of worship, of preaching, of study.” 

Many former Anglicans who join the Ordinariate are married clergymen, and Nazir-Ali is no exception. He and his wife, Valerie, have been married for 49 years and have two sons.

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1949, to a family that had both Muslim and Christian members, Michael James Nazir-Ali attended Catholic schools and Catholic Masses as a youth. He began identifying as a Christian at age 15 and was formally received into the Anglican Church five years later.

Ordained to the Anglican priesthood in 1976, after studies at Cambridge and Oxford, he served at first in Karachi and Lahore. In 1984, he was made bishop of Raiwind in West Punjab. When his life was in danger in Pakistan, then-Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie arranged for his refuge in England. The young bishop became an assistant to the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth and was general secretary of the Church Mission Society 1989–1994. In 1994, he was appointed Bishop of Rochester, England, and in 1999 entered the House of Lords as one of the “Lords Spiritual” because of his seniority in episcopal office.

Nazir-Ali is president of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue (OXTRAD), which trains missionaries for situations where the Church is in danger around the world. 

In a recent Daily Mail op-ed article, Nazir-Ali said he is “excited about the opportunities that joining the Ordinariate will bring: to uphold human rights and help millions of suffering Christians and others round the world. The Catholic Church is a truly united global organization, which gives it strength.”

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