Firstly it must be emphasised that the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches are not different religions but different denominations of the one religion - Christianity. As a result they have many similarities. Go to history for more information of how the Anglican Church split from the Roman Catholic Church.

The other point that should be recognised is that a significant diversity of belief and practice exists within both the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church. This means that at times some Anglicans can appear closer to the Roman Catholic Church than to other Anglicans. The Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church have been involved in discussions over many years to work towards mutual recognition of each other and greater unity.

Please see our Ecumenical page for further information about the conversation that has occurred between Australian Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

Having clarified those issues here are some differences that can be noted.

1. The Pope

The head of the Roman Catholic Church is the Pope. He has authority in all areas of the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world. The Roman Catholic Church has a centralised authority structure.

The Anglican Church however had a dispersed authority structure. While Anglican Churches throughout the world are united into a family of Anglican Churches called the Anglican Communion, each national or provincial church remains autonomous. They agree to stay together as a communion, but not one leader or Church has authority over the others. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the leader of the Anglican Communion, but his role is one of providing a focus for unity, rather than carrying with it authority in other churches beside his own, the Church of England.

2. Ministers / Priests

There are two major differences between Anglican and Roman Catholic priests. Firstly Anglican priests are allowed to marry, while Roman Catholic priests are required to stay celibate.

Secondly, in many parts of the Anglican Communion, women can become priests. This is not possible at present within the Roman Catholic Church.

3. Sacraments

Both the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church recognise the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist (or Holy Communion). However, the Roman Catholic Church recognises a further 5 sacraments - confirmation, penance, extreme unction or the anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony.

4. The Virgin Mary

Once again there is quite a bit of diversity within the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church about what they believe about Mary. However, in general, most Roman Catholics would believe that Mary remained a Virgin and did not give birth to other children except for Jesus, while most Anglicans believe that after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had a number of children - Jesus' brothers and sisters. Many Roman Catholics also pray to Mary while most Anglicans would believe that you can only pray to God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.