London, Jul. 7, 2008 ( - Some Anglican bishops have been in Rome during the past week, speaking with senior Vatican officials about the prospects for reunion with the Holy See.

While the discussions have been reported in several London media outlets, neither the Vatican nor the Church of England has confirmed the reports.

The talks have reportedly accelerated on the eve of a meeting of the synod for the Church of England. The synod faces a potentially explosive debate on proposed steps to ease a crisis in which several hundred Anglican clerics, and tens of thousands of laymen, have refused to accept the authority of female bishops. Some leaders associated with these conservative Anglicans have reportedly begun to investigate the possibility of leaving the Anglican communion and entering the Roman Catholic Church while preserving their Anglican identity.

A proposal to incorporate a large number of entries into the Catholic Church from the Church of England could go beyond the existing limits of the "pastoral provision," which allows for Anglican priests and sometimes entire parishes to be received into the Catholic Church, preserving their distinctive liturgical tradition. Rumors about the latest talks have suggested the creation of a hierarchical structure for the Anglo-Catholics, perhaps in the form of a new prelature.

Similar proposals for the establishment of a hierarchical structure to allow for the preservation of Anglican traditions with the Catholic Church arose in the early 1990s, as the Church of England began to splinter over questions involving the ordination of women. At the time, reliable sources said that the proposals were opposed by the English Catholic hierarchy. Today the English bishops are more willing to consider the proposals, in light of the continuing disintegration of the Anglican communion.

Other reliable sources have reported that those earlier proposals won a sympathetic ear from the then-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger-- now Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news).