Neither the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia nor the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia have a cathedral. The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, which covers the northern part of the commonwealth, has a cathedral shrine, a small, open-air venue, in Orkney Springs. The closest Episcopal cathedrals to the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia are located in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
In the Jan. 15 statement, Knestout responded to “concerns” raised about the event.
“Use of space in a Catholic parish for the Espiscopal Church to conduct their own religious ceremony is well within the accepted ecumenical teachings and norms of the Church,” the bishop said. “I appreciate that [people] are concerned that the sacred space of the Catholic Church be safeguarded, which it is.”
Bishop Knestout pointed to the Vatican Council II document on ecumenism, Unitatis redintegratio, as well as the 1993 Directory of the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, which he said gives “clear guidelines and recommendations regarding the possibility of sharing space with our separated brothers and sisters.”
Knestout also referred to a Jan. 14 letter from Msgr. Joseph Lehman, pastor of St. Bede, which explained that in December 2018 a previous pastor of the parish gave the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia permission to use the church and parish reception hall for its forthcoming episcopal consecration.
The agreement was reached months before the candidate for ordination was known.
“Their request came out of a long-standing formal relationship between our two Churches,” reads the letter. “The Anglican (Episcopal) Communion and the Catholic Church have been in dialogue, both nationally and internationally, since the late 1960s. In addition, in 1990, the two Virginia Catholic dioceses, the three Episcopal diocese, and the two Lutheran Synods of the ECLA [sic] in our Commonwealth have been in a covenant. The United Methodists joined us in 2007.”
“[The former pastor, Msgr. Tim Keeney] sought and received approval from our Bishop to host this event,” Lehman wrote in the letter.
“The Bishop’s only directive was to ‘remove the reserved Blessed Sacrament.’”
Lehman indicated that St. Bede was approached to host the ordination because it has a seating capacity of 1,200, a social hall and catering kitchen, plus “ample parking.” All of St. Bede’s parish campus is handicapped accessible.
The two Episcopal churches located in Williamsburg have seating capacities of 380 and 225.
Keeney did not respond to CNA’s request for comment in time for publication.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
The diocesan bishop is responsible for exercising direction and discretion over ecumenical initiatives in the diocese.
Paragraph 137 of the Directory of the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism states that Catholic churches are “consecrated or blessed buildings” that are “generally reserved for Catholic worship.”
“However, if priests, ministers or communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies, the diocesan Bishop may allow them the use of a church or a Catholic building and also lend them what may be necessary for their services,” the directory said. That norm also applies for services at Catholic cemeteries.
Title III, Canon 11, sections 5-6 of the Canons and Constitution of the Episcopal Church, which explain the requirement of Episcopalian ordinations of bishops, have no requirements that such liturgies take place in either a cathedral or church building.
The previous Episcopal bishop of Southern Virginia, Herman Hollerith, was consecrated at William and Mary Hall on the campus of the College of William and Mary, a public university.
The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia is home to 105 parishes and missions. Norfolk, where the main diocesan offices are located, has 10 Episcopal parishes. According to the diocesean website, the consecration service will be live-streamed and tickets are not required for the event.