On 15 June 2012, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI established in Australia The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross under the patronage of St Augustine of Canterbury. The first ordination to the Catholic priesthood to serve in the Ordinariate took place in Perth when the present writer was ordained and also named as the first Ordinary.
Ordinariates have been set up in England and the United States and are the very generous response of Benedict XVI to Anglicans who over the past decades have been petitioning the Holy See to enter into full corporate unity with the Catholic Church while retaining essential elements of their heritage. What they asked for was "Unity without absorption."
Pope Benedict has made it very clear that unity between Christians is not achieved by agreeing on the lowest common denominator, and those entering an Ordinariate accept the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith. Even so, the Catholic Church is not monochromatic, so the churches that are in union with the Holy Father are encouraged to maintain their own traditions that are consistent with Catholic faith and practice.
The word "Anglican" is used as a noun when referring to those who are in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is also used as an adjective, describing those who are not members of the Canterbury Communion but follow the Anglican spiritual traditions and try to live their lives in accordance with them. It is those Anglicans who believe that they can no longer remain faithful to the Catholic stream that exists within the Anglican tradition separate from the See of Peter who are seeking membership of an Ordinariate.
Since the split between the Church in England and the Western Catholic Church in the 16th century, there have been several serious attempts to heal the breach with the intention that once again there would be unity between them. None of these has been successful and developments in recent decades have created further obstacles in the path towards unity between the Anglican Communion as a whole and the Catholic Church.
In response to the requests of Anglicans, Benedict has made it possible for individuals and groups to enter the fullness of Catholic communion bringing with them many of the treasures of their tradition as a gift to the whole Catholic Church.
This provision in Australia is the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, a dedication that invokes the prayers of Our Lady for the Church in this continent in a new chapter in its life. Its patron is Augustine of Canterbury, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, sent by Gregory I in 597 AD to undertake a mission in Britain. This mission laid the foundation of the English as distinct from the British Church.
The spirituality of the English Church has been shaped by the Celts, Saints Benedict, Bernard, Aelred, Mother Julian of Norwich and later by the Reformers and the Caroline Divines of the 17th century. The Tractarians, including Blessed John Henry Newman of the 19th century, urged Anglicans to rediscover the Catholic threads of their heritage, and this is now possible in the Ordinariate.
The Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, together with its Complementary Norms, set out the structure of the Ordinariate which is an independent 'diocese' within a particular Conference of Bishops.
The Ordinary is the one with authority in the Ordinariate and he may be either a bishop or a priest. His power is entrusted to him by the Pontiff and exercised over all who belong to the Ordinariate in the name of the Pontiff. The Ordinary is a member of the Conference of Bishops and Ordinariate clergy are urged to work closely with clergy of the local diocese.
Membership is open to former Anglicans who accept what the Catholic Church believes and teaches; former Anglicans who have previously been reconciled to the Catholic Church but who now wish to reconnect with their Anglican spiritual heritage; and those baptised in the Catholic Church who have close family members who belong to the Ordinariate.
As the Ordinariate is in organic unity with the Catholic Church, Western and Eastern Catholics are welcome to worship and receive communion in an Ordinariate Mass and vice versa.
The Ordinariate may use any liturgy authorised for use in the Latin Rite, but in order to maintain the Anglican spiritual tradition, the Pope has authorised a commission to produce liturgies that reflect that tradition for use in the Ordinariate. These will be available in the near future and, together with the richness of the Anglican musical tradition, are likely to be the norm.
The founding of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross marks a significant step in the ecumenical journey of the Christian Churches. It will begin in a small way and develop gradually, adding to its numbers as new groups are formed across the country and the priests of those groups ordained. A website will be created providing news, lists of groups and contact information for enquirers.
Msgr Harry Entwistle is the Head of Australia's Personal Ordinariate for former Anglicans. Temporary contact details are ordinariate at iinet. net.au; PO Box 457, North Perth, WA 6906; tel: 0417 180 145