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TWELVE Church of England nuns were “welcomed home” yesterday when they formally converted to Catholicism.

The nuns from Wantage’s Community of St Mary the Virgin were received into full communion at The Oxford Oratory.

They are the first in Oxfordshire and the second in the country to leave the Anglican Church under an initiative set up by the Pope.

The oratory’s Daniel Seward began the service by saying: “My dear Mother, my dear Sisters, welcome home!”

He said: “This is not a betrayal of what has come before, but it is the fulfilment of those vows you have already made and the fruition of the love and service of those generations of sisters who have gone before you.”

The nuns will be given a new home after leaving the Challow Road community, where 16 remain.

It is the first time county nuns have left to join the Pope’s Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, set up in 2011.

The Wantage convent was founded through the Oxford Movement of the mid 19th century. It hit headlines last year when a care assistant won an unfair dismissal case amid allegations of abuse and bullying, though the ordinariate said the change was not related to the case.

In an earlier statement, Mother Winsome, the Superior of the Community, said: “We believe the Holy Father’s offer is a prophetic gesture which brings to a happy conclusion the prayers of generations of Anglicans and Catholics who have sought a way forward for Christian unity.”