Five Anglican bishops announced their resignations from the Church of England today so that they can enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.
The decision to resign made by Bishops Andrew Burnham, Keith Newton, John Broadhurst, Edwin Barnes and David Silk was welcomed by Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Alan Hopes of Westminster in a message on Nov. 8.
Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams said that he accepted the resignations of Bishops Burnham and Newton with regret. Bishop Broadhurst had been serving as the head of Forward in Faith, a traditional coalition of Anglicans, while Bishops Barnes and Silk are retired bishops.
Bishop Hopes, the point man for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales on forming an Anglican jurisdiction, said that under the guidelines set forth by the Pope in "Anglicanorum Coetibus," the Church will establish an "Ordinariate for England and Wales" for those wishing to enter the Catholic Church.
Benedict XVI released the guidelines for the creation of ordinariates in Nov. 2009, after receiving inquiries from groups of Anglicans who were dismayed at the ordination of women and practicing homosexuals as bishops.
Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi said on Nov. 8, 2010 that the Vatican "can confirm that the constitution of a first Ordinariate is under study, according to the norms established by the Apostolic Constitution ‘Anglicanorum coetibus,’ and that any further decisions regarding this will be communicated at the proper moment.”
He explained that because of their desire to become part of the Catholic Church, the bishops were "obliged by conscience" to step down from their posts within the Church of England.
The bishops themselves released a joint communique noting their discontent at a growing divide between Catholics and Anglicans and their distress at developments in the Anglican Church, which they find "incompatible" with its historic vocation and tradition.
The issue pushing the bishops to make the decision to "cross over" to Rome was the result of a vote during the Anglican General Synod last July. The majority of bishops voted to pass legislation allowing for the ordination of women. This was the breaking point for some of those who held closer to a traditional form of Anglicanism.
The five bishops, who are to step down entirely from their pastoral responsibilities on Dec. 31, 2010, called the Pope's ordinariate measure "both a generous response to various approaches to the Holy See for help and a bold, new ecumenical instrument in the search for the unity of Christians, the unity for which Christ himself prayed before his Passion and Death."
"It is a unity, we believe, which is possible only in Eucharistic communion with the successor of St Peter."
The five prelates invited those who share their perspective to follow them.
Bishop Hopes said the Catholic bishops of England and Wales will be exploring the creation of the first ordinariate during their plenary meetings next week. More information will follow their discussions, he said.