Southern Comfort wrote:This appears to be something of a departure from tradition, in the sense that a branch that split off is returning, rather than a branch growing out of the root
Surely there's ample precedent? All the eastern-rite Catholic churches (barring the Maronites, I think) are either reunited Eastern/Oriental Orthodox churches which were once separated, or, more commonly, breakaway factions from churches which are still separated. There are parallels, then, between the proposed acceptance of a branch of Anglicanism, and the reunification of (part of) the Russian Orthodox Church in 1596, which gives us today's Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Southern Comfort wrote:this initiative is a most charitable gesture
Nothing of the kind, I think. Pope Benedict wouldn't have extended a similar welcome to a breakaway grouping of Orthodox believers, because he believes that corporate reunion with the Orthodox churches themselves is a possibility to be worked for. (Note the hard time that, e.g. the Russian or Belorussian (Byzantine-Rite) Catholic Churches have had since emerging blinking from the catacombs in the mid-1990s - they've practically been suppressed by Rome, since they're a major diplomatic inconvenience for improved relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.)
So why is Benedict making this overture towards disaffected Anglicans? Because he doesn't believe there's any prospect of unity with the Anglican Communion. It's a smash and grab raid, before writing off the remainder of Anglicanism for future ecumenical endeavours. In future the C of E (and the wider Anglican world) will be lumped together with the Free Presbyterians and the Salvation Army in Rome's eyes, as far as the prospects of genuine unity are concerned.
Perhaps he's right?