RELIGIOUS history has been made with the first ordination of a former Anglican clergyman in Scotland into the Catholic priesthood.
Father Len Black, 61 and a grandfather of two, was ordained into the priesthood this weekend, at a ceremony at St Mary's Church in Greenock performed by Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley.
He is the latest former Anglican clergyman in the UK, and the first in Scotland, to be ordained into the Roman Catholic Church under the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the body set up earlier this year by Pope Benedict XVI to receive those leaving the Anglican Church because of the consecration of women bishops.
Father Black was an Episcopal minister for 30 years before converting to Catholicism. Until recently he was the minister at St Michael and All Angels in Inverness and was also the regional dean of Forward in Faith, the leading group of traditionalist Anglicans.
He delivered his last sermon at St Michael's earlier this year. His move to the Catholic Church has divided the Inverness congregation, with about a dozen believed to be following him to his new charge.
Bishop Peter Moran of Aberdeen, who will shortly retire, ordained the former minister to the diaconate last month at Pluscarden Abbey near Elgin ahead of his ordination as a Catholic priest.
When the first plans for the ordinariate were announced in March last year, Father Black said he warmly welcomed the Pope's efforts "to respond to groups of Anglicans, including members of Forward in Faith, seeking to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony".
Speaking ahead of the ceremony, he said: "The gift of ordination is a great privilege and honour, and for me it is also the culmination of a long journey into full communion with the Catholic Church made possible by the generosity of Pope Benedict."
Bishop Tartaglia, who is the bishop-delegate in Scotland for matters to do with the establishment of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, said Sunday's ordination was a significant step.
"I am delighted to ordain the Rev Len Black to the priesthood," he said. "Although the group in Scotland is very small, when taken along with considerably more groups and clergy in England and Wales - and with ordinariate arrangements coming into place soon in the United States and possibly in Australia later - this begins to look like a new and visionary way of re- creating Christian unity after years of ecumenical stalemate.
"It is marked by the striking originality, simplicity, and generosity of a Pope Benedict XVI initiative."