Five Anglican bishops who announced earlier this month that they are quitting the Church of England, will be the first to join a new “personal ordinariate” established by the bishops of England and Wales this coming January.
The bishops unveiled their plans for the new ordinariate, or jurisdiction, in a Nov. 19 statement.
They said that Pope Benedict XVI will formally establish the ordinariate and name a bishop to lead it in early January 2011.
Pope Benedict invited Anglicans to join the Church last year under special provisions that would enable them to retain their own forms of worship and their tradition of permitting married priests.
In their announcement, the English and Welsh bishops said the new procedures for accepting Anglican converts have been worked out over the past year in cooperation with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Under the timetable they laid out, the three former Anglican bishops who are not retired will be ordained to serve as priests in the new ordinariate. The other two bishops, who are retired, will be ordained by Lent 2011.
“This will enable them, together with the ordinary and the other former Anglican Bishops, to assist with the preparation and reception of former Anglican clergy and their faithful into full communion with the Catholic Church during Holy Week,” the bishops said.
In addition, the statement envisions that Anglican clergy who have decided to convert will begin “a period of intense formation for ordination as Catholic priests.”
At the same time, individual Anglicans and congregations together with their pastors will be enrolled as candidates for the ordinariate.
It is likely, the bishops said, that they will be received into the Church and confirmed either during Holy Week, at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday or during the Easter Vigil.
“The period of formation for the faithful and their pastors will continue to Pentecost,” according to the statement. “Until then, these communities will be cared for sacramentally by local clergy as arranged by the diocesan bishop and the ordinary.”
Also around Pentecost, those former Anglican priests whose petitions for ordination have been accepted by the Vatican’s doctrine office will be ordained as Catholic priests.
Former Anglican Bishop John Broadhurst, one of the five who announced his resignation from the Church of England on Nov. 7, said he was “pleased” with the plans announced by the English and Welsh bishops.
The bishops said they were seeking to bring former Anglicans into “full ecclesial communion with the Catholic Church within the ordinariate.” They said they recognize “that the clergy and faithful who are on that journey of faith will bring their own spiritual treasures which will further enrich the spiritual life of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.”
While they acknowledged that there may be “practical difficulties in the months ahead,” the Catholic bishops pledged to “do all they can to ensure that there is effective and close collaboration with the ordinariate both at diocesan and parish levels.”