A FORMER vicar who stunned his congregation by joining the Roman Catholic faith is set to become a Roman Catholic priest.

And it was revealed today that when Father Roy Williams left St Catherine's Church, Burnley, he took with him nearly a third of the "high church" Anglican congregation.

Father Williams quit two years ago after serving the parish for 17 years because he would not accept the ordination of women. Parishioners were told he was simply retiring to Blackpool.

Today the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancaster confirmed Father Williams had become a deacon and is likely to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest next year.

His successor, Father Anthony Dalton, said nearly a third of the congregation also left the church to become Roman Catholics.

At the time Father Williams left there was no indication that he was to join the Roman Catholics. He told parishioners he was retiring to Thornton, near Blackpool, with his wife Barbara, a former Burnley councillor.

But just a few weeks after his departure, it came to light the former Blackburn councillor had been received into the Roman Catholic church.

Asked if he had built up a congregation of his own, Father Dalton said it was going to take time.

Father David Lannon, priest at St Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Burnley, just a few hundred yards from St Catherine's, said he had members of his congregation who used to attend Anglican churches but was unable to say where they had been parishioners.

He added: "It is becoming quite common for adults to realise they have a large void and seek to become Roman Catholic. I try to guide them to find what God wants them to do."

No-one was available at Blackburn Diocese offices to comment on what happened.

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