Personal Ordinariates for former Anglicans: worldwide progress

Personal Ordinariates for former Anglicans: worldwide progress

Michael Gilchrist

Moves are underway in several Anglophone countries to establish Personal Ordinariates for former Anglicans desiring unity with the Catholic Church, in accordance with the provisions of the 2009 Apostolic Constitution  Anglicanorum coetibus of Pope Benedict XVI.

In Australia, an Ordinariate Festival was held at St Stephen's College, Coomera, Queensland, between 1-3 February 2011. Anglicans from all States came together with Catholics to understand more about Pope Benedict's offer of a Personal Ordinariate.

The Episcopal Delegate for the Ordinariate, Bishop Peter Elliott, said that he sensed strong feelings of anticipation and enthusiasm among participants, while noting: "Difficult questions were raised frankly. But I was moved when people gave testimonies of their journeys towards the Ordinariate. We all came to understand the urgent pastoral need for this unique community in full communion with the Successor of St Peter."

After the festival, a national implementation committee representing all groups met for the first time to tackle practical issues. Local Ordinariate working groups are also being set up Australia-wide.

A second Ordinariate Festival was due in Perth on 26 February, at Holy Family Church Como, hosted by Bishop Harry Entwhistle (Traditional Anglican Communion) while other festivals are envisaged for Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide to inform people as plans for an Australian Ordinariate take shape.

Progress in UK

Meanwhile, the process is well advanced in the UK.

An English-language communiqué from the Vatican on 15 January read: "... after careful consultation with the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has today erected a Personal Ordinariate within the territory of England and Wales for those groups of Anglican clergy and faithful who have expressed their desire to enter into full visible communion with the Catholic Church."

The communiqué explained, "A Personal Ordinariate is a canonical structure that provides for corporate reunion in such a way that allows former Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of their distinctive Anglican patrimony. With this structure, the Apostolic Constitution  Anglicanorum coetibus seeks to balance on the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions and, on the other hand, the concern that these groups and their clergy will be fully integrated into the Catholic Church."

The Vatican Decree specifies that the Ordinariate will be known as the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and placed under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman. Father Keith Newton, a former Anglican bishop, has been appointed by the Pope as the first ordinary for this Personal Ordinariate.

Father Newton is one of three former Anglican bishops who were ordained to the Catholic priesthood on 15 January in Westminster Cathedral. The other two were Father Andrew Burnham and Father John Broadhurst.

Liverpool-born, and married with three children, Father Newton, responding to his appointment, said: "I do not see my reception into the Catholic Church as a radical break but part of the ongoing pilgrimage of faith which began at my baptism. Since my teenage years I have longed and prayed for corporate unity with the Catholic Church and the publication of the apostolic constitution has offered the possibility of realising that dream."

In its communiqué, the Holy See explained that "for doctrinal reasons the Church does not, in any circumstances, allow the ordination of married men as bishops. However, the apostolic constitution does provide, under certain conditions, for the ordination as Catholic priests of former Anglican married clergy."

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, welcomed the news of Father Newton's appointment as ordinary, noting that he "will prove to be a valued member" of the conference.

The Conference's general secretary, Father Marcus Stock, explained: "As the ordinary of the Ordinariate has similar authority and responsibilities in canon law to a diocesan bishop he will therefore be an ex officio member of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. As a member of the conference, the ordinary will, like a diocesan bishop, take a full part in its discussions and decisions.

The Holy See communiqué also noted that the three former Anglican bishops "will oversee the catechetical preparation of the first groups of Anglicans in England and Wales who will be received into the Catholic Church together with their pastors at Easter." They will also "accompany the clergy preparing for ordination to the Catholic priesthood around Pentecost."

Canada and US

Elsewhere, the Church in Canada is exploring the level of interest among Anglicans for their own Ordinariate. Toronto's Archbishop Thomas Collins is the Vatican delegate charged with seeing what needs to be done to establish an Ordinariate in Canada.

Archbishop Collins is planning a conference for 24-26 March for Anglicans who would like to learn more about implementing Anglicanorum coetibus in Canada.

In the United States, the Vatican delegate, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, DC, said that questionnaires had been sent out to learn more about American Anglicans who have expressed an interest in becoming Catholic. A sufficiently large response would mean the creation of an Anglican Ordinariate in the United States.

Cardinal Wuerl said: "We've already seen how the Holy See, at the request of Pope Benedict, has established an Ordinariate in England, Our Lady of Walsingham. And that would probably be a model for what we would do here in the US."

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