Cleric given blessing to study witchcraft

Witches from a coven in England will be performing rituals under the watchful eye of an invited guest - a Church of England priest.

The Rev Richard Thomas has been given the blessing of his bishop to attend pagan rituals and plans to meet witches to research a thesis on Wicca - modern pagan witchcraft.

The clergyman, who will take a three-month sabbatical from his job as director of communications in the Oxford diocese, has described his work as "something that God has called me to do".

He added: "If Christianity is going to interact with people who are interested in witchcraft, druidry or shamanism then we are going to have to sit down and talk with people in humility and hear what they have to say about our faith."

Mr Thomas said he would make no direct attempts to "convert" pagans to Christianity. But he added: "I am more than happy to answer people's questions about the Christian faith."