On June 15 Pope Benedict officially erected the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross for Anglican groups and individuals who want to enter full communion with the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Dennis J. Hart of Melbourne, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, assured former Anglicans of “a warm welcome in the Catholic Church throughout Australia,” and offered his “respect and admiration” for the “gifts” that Anglicans bring.
“For them and for us, this is a very special moment on which we pray the blessings of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of Our Lady of the Southern Cross,” he said.
In an interesting twist, Pope Benedict named former Anglican bishop Harry Entwistle as the first ordinary of the group, making his appointment effective as soon as he was ordained a Catholic priest, which happened on June 15.
Archbishop Hart welcomed Fr. Entwistle, saying he and his people have “made a long journey.”
The ordinariate is a special church jurisdiction similar to a diocese. Pope Benedict XVI announced the ordinariates for former Anglicans in his November 2009 apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus.”
They allow Anglicans to join the Catholic Church while retaining aspects of their liturgy and customs.
The decree establishing the new ordinariate came from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“The supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls,” the decree said. “As such, throughout history, the Church has always found the pastoral and juridical means to care for the good of the faithful.”
Fr. Entwistle said that membership is open to former Anglicans who accept what the Catholic Church believes and teachers, as well as to former Anglicans who have previously joined the Catholic Church. Those who have close family members in the ordinariate may also join.
The Pope has also created ordinariates in England and Wales and the U.S. Their leaders welcomed the Australian ordinariate.
Msgr. Keith Newton, the ordinary of the England and Wales Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, said he is “very pleased” to hear of Fr. Entwistle’s “encouraging” appointment.
“Fr. Entwistle has a wealth of experience from his Anglican ministry in England and in Australia, and I look forward to working with him closely as we seek to articulate the vision of ‘Anglicanorum Coetibus,’” he said June 15.
Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, the head of the U.S. Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, also welcomed the news.
He offered support for Fr. Entwistle’s “important work” in making a home for Anglicans in Australia who have been “called by God to full communion with the Catholic Church and the rock from which we were hewn.”
“May God bless Fr. Entwistle as he launches this new endeavor in the vast lands of ‘down under,’” Fr. Steenson said.
Fr. Entwistle was born in Lancashire in England on May 31, 1940.
He studied at the University of Durham and was ordained for the Anglican Diocese of Blackburn in 1964. He emigrated to Australia in 1988. He has served as a parish priest and a prison chaplain.
In 2006 he joined the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia, which is part of the Traditional Anglican Communion. He was ordained a bishop for that church body in November 2006.
He married Jean Barrett Bolts in 1967 and has a married son and a single daughter.
Fr. Entwistle said Pope Benedict has made it “very clear” that Christian unity is not achieved by agreeing on “the lowest common denominator.” Those who join an ordinariate “accept the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith,” he said.