Catholic structure for ex-Anglicans in UK expected by Jan. 15
By Benjamin Mann
Archbishop Vincent Nichols
Archbishop Vincent Nichols

.- Catholic bishops in England and Wales expect that their country's new jurisdiction for former Anglicans will be formally established in a Vatican decree by Jan. 15, the same day that three onetime Anglican bishops will receive their ordination as Catholic priests.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols will ordain John Broadhurst, Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton to the priesthood in a ceremony at Westminster Cathedral. Together with two other departing Anglican bishops, they had announced on Nov. 8, 2010 that they would be leaving that denomination to join the Catholic Church, which they did formally on Jan. 1.

The three men will serve as priests in the Ordinariate for England and Wales, the first structure of its kind to be established under norms provided by Pope Benedict XVI. Their ordinations are proceeding quickly so that they can minister to their congregations continuously, without the long lapse in time that a separate program of formation would require.

Edwin Barnes and David Silk, two retired former Anglican bishops, are also training to become priests in the English and Welsh Ordinariate, and will most likely be ordained at a later date.

“The establishment of the ordinariate is something new,” commented Fr. Marcus Stock, General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, reflecting Jan. 11 on what he called a novel development “not just in the life of the Catholic Church in England and Wales but in the universal Church as well.”

The ordinariate is a jurisdiction within the Roman Catholic Church, in which former Anglicans will preserve many of their distinct liturgical and spiritual traditions while adhering fully to Catholic teaching and authority.

Controversies within the Anglican Communion, including female ordination and widespread acceptance of homosexuality, prompted some groups of Anglicans to petition the Holy See for a means of uniting collectively with the Catholic Church. In November 2009, the Pope's Apostolic Constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus” outlined the provisions of corporate reunion for Anglican groups.

Fr. Stock said it was especially important, during the first phases of the English and Welsh Ordinariate, “that our welcome is warm and our support is strong” for its new clergy and faithful. He encouraged Catholics in the U.K. and around the world to pray for Anglicans who are seeking to discern their future course, as well as those now preparing to enter the Catholic Church.

The ordinariates are similar to dioceses, although they can be led by either a bishop or a priest. However, members of the Ordinariate for England and Wales will remain under the jurisdiction of its leader (known as the “ordinary”), even if they reside in another English or Welsh bishop's canonical territory.

The local ordinary, whether he is a bishop or a priest, will participate as a member of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. He will also have responsibility for implementing any pertinent decisions of the conference within his ordinariate, as a bishop would within his diocese. The ordinaries will also visit Rome every five years to confer with the Pope, as diocesan bishops do.

Although a married Anglican bishop may leave that position to become a Catholic priest, only those Anglicans who are unmarried will be considered for consecration as bishops if they leave the Anglican Communion to join an ordinariate.

One of the most distinct features of the ordinariate communities will be in their liturgical practices. Although the communities are not defined primarily by their liturgical usages, in the way that the Eastern Catholic churches are, the ordinariate parishes will maintain many of the Anglican liturgical rites after some degree of adaptation and approval by the Holy See.

Any eligible Catholic throughout the world will be able to attend and receive the sacraments in these communities, as in any other Roman Catholic or Eastern Catholic church.

On March 9, 2011 –when Lent begins, with Ash Wednesday– several more Anglican groups of clergy and faithful will enroll to join the Ordinariate for England and Wales. They will most likely enter fully into the Catholic Church during Holy Week of 2011, pending an agreement between the head of the ordinariate and local diocesan bishops.

Around the time of Pentecost, a number of additional former Anglican clergy who have joined the English and Welsh Ordinariate will be ordained as priests, pending the approval of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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