Hundreds of traditionalist Anglican clergy will meet this weekend in London to discuss whether to enter the Catholic Church in light of Pope Benedict XVI’s creation of an Anglican “ordinariate.”
About 500 members of members of the group Forward in Faith will attend the meeting, the Times Online reports. Many of them are waiting for the Vatican’s publication of a Code of Practice, which will provide more detail about the proposed new church structure organized under an Apostolic Constitution.
The chairman of Forward in Faith, Bishop of Fulham, England John Broadhurst, issued a statement on Tuesday responding to the Vatican announcement that a structure will be created to assist Anglicans who want to enter into communion with Rome.
Bishop Broadhurst said that Anglican Catholics have had “frequently expressed hope and fervent desire” to be enabled to enter into full communion with Rome while retaining “every aspect of their Anglican inheritance which is not at variance with the teaching of the Catholic Church.”
“We rejoice that the Holy Father intends now to set up structures within the Church which respond to this heartfelt longing. Forward in Faith has always been committed to seeking unity in truth and so warmly welcomes these initiatives as a decisive moment in the history of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England.”
He closed his message with the Latin phrase “Ut unum sint,” Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John meaning “may they be one.” The phrase is also the title of Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical on ecumenism.
Jack Leo Iker, Episcopal Bishop of Ft. Worth, Texas, also responded to the proposed church structure in a Tuesday message.
“Many Anglo-Catholics will welcome this development as a very generous and welcoming offer that enhances the Pastoral Provision that has been in place for several years for those seeking reunion with Rome,” he commented. “Other Anglicans who desire full communion with the See of Peter would prefer some sort of recognition of the validity of Anglican orders and the provision for inter-communion between Roman Catholics and Anglicans.”
He said the virtues of the proposal include the maintenance of “certain aspects” of Anglican worship and spirituality, but he added that not all Anglo-Catholics can accept certain Catholic teachings and do not believe they must first “convert to Rome” to be truly catholic Christians.
The proposal comes at a “difficult time,” Bishop Iker continued, noting the lawsuits against his diocese by the Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S.
His diocese voted to leave the Episcopal Church in November 2008, choosing to join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.
“This diocese stands for orthodox Christianity, and we are increasingly at odds with the revisionist practices and teachings of the official leadership of The Episcopal Church,” he had said at the time of the vote.
The bishop closed his Tuesday statement by eschewing “hasty decisions” and by pledging to continue to work and pray for Christian unity.
Bishop Iker’s predecessor, Clarence C. Pope, Jr., converted to Catholicism in 2007.
More than 440 clergy left the Church of England after the Anglican Church’s General Synod voted in 1992 to ordain women priests, the London Times says. Some subsequently returned.
Pope Benedict’s proposal has reportedly made their conversion easier by allowing Anglicans to retain crucial aspects of their identity and by allowing them to set up seminaries.
However, some may face financial difficulties. The London Times reports that Catholic priests in Britain earn slightly over one-third the salary of Anglican clergymen.
While Anglican clergy who left the Church of England after its 1992 synod received a compensation package, the Archbishop of Canterbury has indicated there will be no similar package this time.
Bishops Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton, the two prelates appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to minister to Anglicans opposed to women priests, advised against “sudden decisions.”
They said Anglicans will want to stay within the Anglican Communion, while others will want to make “individual arrangements.”
“A further group of Anglicans, we think, will begin to form a caravan, rather like the People of Israel crossing the desert in search of the Promised Land,” they commented.
The two bishops suggested Feb. 22, the Feast of the Chair of Peter, as an appropriate day for priests and laity to make an “initial decision” about whether to “explore further” Pope Benedict’s proposal.