Saturday, January 15, 2011

Walsingham: The Ordinariate Begins

All of 14 months since the Vatican announced a historic opening to welcome Anglican groups into full communion, in the same hour that the three former "Flying Bishops" of the Church of England's Anglo-Catholic wing are being ordained to the Catholic priesthood in Westminster Cathedral, the Holy See has announced the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Comprising former Anglicans in England and Wales who'll be permitted to maintain much of the liturgical and (lay-heavy) administrative tradition of the Canterbury communion, the first-of-its-kind structure has been placed under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman, with the Pope naming the youngest of the ex-prelates -- now Fr Keith Newton, 58 -- as the founding Ordinary.

Keeping in mind that the new jurisdiction is intended to form the template for similar arrangements soon to be launched in Australia, Canada and the US, here, the Vatican release:
In accordance with the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus of Pope Benedict XVI (November 4, 2009) and 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 Decree of Erection specifies that the Ordinariate will be known as the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and will be placed under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman.

A Personal Ordinariate is a canonical structure that provides for corporate reunion in such a way that allows former Anglicans to enter 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.

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. Today at Westminster Cathedral in London, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, ordained to the Catholic priesthood three former Anglican Bishops: Reverend Andrew Burnham, Reverend Keith Newton, and Reverend John Broadhurst.

Also today Pope Benedict XVI has nominated Reverend Keith Newton as the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Together with Reverend Burnham and Reverend Broadhurst, Reverend Newton 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, and to accompany the clergy preparing for ordination to the Catholic priesthood around Pentecost.

The provision of this new structure is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church. The initiative leading to the publication of the Apostolic Constitution and the erection of this Personal Ordinariate came from a number of different groups of Anglicans who have declared that they share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church. For them, the time has now come to express this implicit unity in the visible form of full communion.
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This morning's ordinations of the founding trio were performed by the UK's most-prominent prelate, the English primate Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, whose homily underscored that "today is a unique occasion marking a new step in the life and history of the Catholic Church.

"Many ordinations have taken place in this Cathedral during the 100 years of its history," the archbishop added. "But none quite like this."

Among the many to he thanked for helping make the moment possible, Nichols listed among them the archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for "his characteristic insight, and generosity of heart and spirit" in wishing the new priests well on their journey across the Tiber.

While the Westminster auxiliary Alan Hopes -- the first former Anglican cleric in recent times to be ordained a Catholic bishop -- was initially expected to lead today's rites (as he did Thursday evening in making deacons of the three ex-bishops), in another sign that, appearances aside, this was anything but a typical ordination, Nichols stepped in to represent Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and B16's designated overseer for the Anglicanorum project.

Unable to be present due to a trip to India to meet with the country's bishops, in a message read at the Mass, Levada extended the pontiff's blessing to the new priests and the witnesses to the day, telling the founding members of the new ordinariate that "in the midst of the uncertainty that every period of transition inevitably brings, I wish to assure you all of our admiration for you."

A daughter of the freshly-named ordinary (above, giving a blessing at Communion) proclaimed one of the readings at the Mass, and in the rite's emotional high-point, the new priests' vestments were brought forward by their wives.

Though, as the Vatican noted, the trio's marriages bar them from ordination as Catholic bishops, the complimentary norms of Anglicanorum coetibus provide that a former Anglican prelate ordained to the Roman priesthood may still use episcopal insignia, and sit in the country's respective conference of bishops with the status of a retired member. (While that's the general rule for ex-bishops, a priest designated as ordinary for the groups sits as a full voting member of his jurisdiction's episcopal conference.)

Beyond the roughly 35 parish groups and 50 priests slated to make the journey into the English ordinariate over the coming months, two more Anglican bishops will be ordained Catholic priests by early March.