Three former Anglican bishops are busily preparing to be ordained as Catholic priests on Jan. 15, following their reception into the Church at a Mass held in London's Westminster Cathedral on New Year’s Day.
CNA caught up with one of the three, Bishop John Broadhurst on Jan. 5 following a full day of classes on the Church’s canon law.
“We've been virtually through the whole lot," he chuckled.
He began the classes last year and said he will continue with them even after his ordination.
Bishop Broadhurst, along with Bishops Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton resigned their Anglican ministries on Dec. 31, 2010. Along with members of their families and three Anglican religious sisters, the three entered the Church the following day.
Bishop Broadhurst praised the "unprecedented" gesture of Pope Benedict XVI that has made his conversion to Rome possible.
In Nov. 2009, the Pope issued the invitation in an apostolic constitution, "Anglicanorum Coetibus.” The document proposed that former Anglicans could enter into “full communion” with the Church as members of specially-tailored jurisdictions, or “personal ordinariates.”
"It's a completely new way of dealing with problems of people who are outside the Catholic Church and want reconciliation," Bishop Broadhurst said.
Although the ordinariate has now been established for England and Wales, as yet no bishop has been appointed to oversee it.
"We've got to get it up and running, it's a pretty momentous task to be honest with you,” Bishop Broadhurst said.
He estimated that the establishment of the ordinariate will lead to many new converts.
He estimated that in 1994 there were about 500 former Anglican priests who sought communion with the Catholic Church. He predicted "about 50" will come over initially, throughout the coming year.
"A lot of other people are interested," he said.
The bishops will be ordained Catholic deacons on Jan.13 and priests on Jan. 15, according to a statement issued by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. Additionally, two other retired ex-Anglican bishops who also resigned at the conclusion of 2010, Edwin Barnes and David Silk, will also be ordained "in due course."
Those ordained as priests will continue to receive Catholic formation throughout the coming year, according to plans developed by the bishops' conference and the Vatican.
The fact that the Vatican is allowing ongoing formation, he said, is "one of the things that is very, very brave" about the plans for the ordinariate.
According to Broadhurst, the incoming Anglicans are well versed in Catholic doctrine and there is little threat of any surprises that might make them "turn back."
“I think the assumption you mustn't make is that Anglicans from most traditions are unfamiliar with the teaching of the Catholic Church on any major items. I mean, there's not likely to be any problems with faith. You know, I can't see that.”
He pointed to two historic points of contention between the two communions — the Church’s dogmas concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary’s “Immaculate Conception” and “Assumption.”
"We wouldn't be where we were if we didn't accept those and I think that is as simple as it is," he said.
He said he and his fellow Anglican pioneers are approaching their new lives as Catholics with "excitement and trepidation."
He looks forward to the day when he is joined by many others. "The ordinariate at the moment," he said, "is a bit top heavy. There are three ex-bishops, three nuns and two women, one of whom is my wife."