A CHURCH of England priest will take a historic step next week when he joins a global break away movement and converts to Catholicism.

Father David Elliot (pictured below right) will resign his post at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, in Oxford Road, on Sunday and lead a number of his parishioners in setting up the newly-formed Reading Ordinariate at St James' Catholic Church, in Forbury Road.

The 15-strong group, who will officially became Catholics on Ash Wednesday next week, is among 30 across England joining the exodus being led by former Anglican Bishop of Ebbsfleet Father Andrew Burnham, now an Oxfordshire Catholic priest.

The move was galvanised by Pope Benedict XVI's offer to accommodate Anglicans within the Roman Catholic Church through the English Ordinariate - specifically for CofE traditionalists who want to switch allegiance while retaining some of their Anglican traditions.

It comes in the wake of last year's Church of England General Synod ruling supporting the ordination of women bishops in England for the first time, causing a rift between traditionalists and modernisers.

Fr David, who plans to train as a Catholic priest later this year, said: "The Christian Church is stronger if it is united."

He stressed the opposition to women Bishops is not about prejudice but threatens the goal of ultimate unity, and said: "When something monumental like that is decided the whole church has to make a decision, not just a part of it."

He added: "While there is sadness to leave people I've known for a number of years, there's a great joy of moving forward and achieving what we have always striven for. It isn't saying goodbye, it's following what we believe and we hope and pray others will join us."

The Reading Ordinariate will hold Sunday masses at 9.30am at St James. Services at the 184-year-old Holy Trinity Church will continue as normal with a new vicar being appointed shortly.