Catholic Online REPORT - Saturday morning, January 15, 2010, in Westminster Cathedral, Church history was made and a prophetic homecoming began. Three former Anglican Bishops, who had resigned their ministry in order to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church through the Anglican Ordinariate, were ordained as Catholic Priests. The ordination into the Priesthood of Christ was administered by one of the successors of the Apostles, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster. In his beautiful homily, the Archbishop proclaimed:
"Today we thank the Holy Father for the courageous leadership he gives in establishing the first Personal Ordinariate. His intentions are clear. It is, as he has said, "a prophetic gesture". It is to contribute to the wider goal of visible unity between our two Churches by helping us to know in practice how our patrimonies of faith and living can strengthen each other in our mission today. At Oscott College, the Holy Father said to us bishops:'It (the Ordinariate) helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all.'"
"The visible unity of the Church, then, is central to our thoughts today. Indeed, it was never far from the heart of St Paul as is well expressed in his Letter to the Ephesians and, a little earlier, to the Philippians. His appeal is steadfast: that believing in Christ as Lord, that sharing in one Spirit, that worship of one God and Father create a unity which must be constantly served by the practice of humility, gentleness, patience and love. In Philippians he is more explicit about the attitudes and behaviours that threaten this unity: selfish ambition for the power of office; the search for personal approval or prestige; a focus on the importance of self within a competitive spirit, all taking us away from 'the mind of Christ Jesus'. (cf Phil 2.1©5)."
Underscoring the prophetic nature of this moment the first Ordinariate was dedicated to Blessed John Henry Newman. Along with several others who have regularly written on this amazing chapter in Church history, I expected this patronage. It confirms the Holy Father's intentional choice to raise Cardinal Newman to the altar as Blessed this past year in person and the connection between Blessed Newman and these extraordinary events we are currently living through. Newman's own journey continues and his prayer for his Anglican brethren is being answered. In addition, this first Ordinariate is named after Our Lady of Walsingham, a title given to the Mother of the Lord which has given rise to a deeply held devotion shared by both Catholics and Anglicans.A shrine bearing her name in England is frequented by both Anglicans and Catholics.
In addition there was another announcement made upon the erection of this first Ordinariate. It confirms how the selection of Ordinaries will be made going forward since this first one serves as a model for those already in waiting in Australia, Canada and the United States. Under the Apostolic Constitution which established the Ordinariate, Ordinaries may be chosen from among either Priests or Bishops. These men will preside over an Ordinariate once it is erected.
Last year I wrote an article on reports that the first ordinary chosen would be the former Anglican Bishop of Richborough, now Fr. Keith Newton. Now, it is confirmed. Fr. Newton is the first Ordinary of the first Ordinariate in England and Wales. As a married man ordained to the priesthood, he cannot become a Bishop. This is an ancient practice and is still the practice among Eastern Christians, both Orthodox and Catholic.
However, he can and will serve in leadership in one more example of the profound wisdom contained in the juridic structure which the Holy Father put in place for our Anglican friends coming home. Fr. Keith Newton will function as a sort of Arch-Priest, who is now given jurisdiction over the Ordinariate of England and Wales. Fr. Newton's daughter served as a Lector at the Ordination liturgy and the wives of all three deacons brought forward their priestly vestments at the appointed time.
As expected, the Holy See released the formal text or Bull erecting this first ordinariate. It was read at the beginning of the Liturgy of Ordination and is set forth below:
In accordance with the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus of Pope Benedict XVI (November 4, 2009) and after careful consultation with the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has today erected a Personal Ordinariate within the territory of England and Wales for those groups of Anglican clergy and faithful who have expressed their desire to enter into full visible communion with the Catholic Church. The Decree of Erection specifies that the Ordinariate will be known as the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and will be placed under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman.
A Personal Ordinariate is a canonical structure that provides for corporate reunion in such a way that allows former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of their distinctive Anglican patrimony. With this structure, the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus seeks to balance on the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions and, on the other hand, the concern that these groups and their clergy will be fully integrated into the Catholic Church.
For doctrinal reasons the Church does not, in any circumstances, allow the ordination of married men as Bishops. However, the Apostolic Constitution does provide, under certain conditions, for the ordination as Catholic priests of former Anglican married clergy. Today at Westminster Cathedral in London, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, ordained to the Catholic priesthood three former Anglican Bishops: Reverend Andrew Burnham, Reverend Keith Newton, and Reverend John Broadhurst.
Also today Pope Benedict XVI has nominated Reverend Keith Newton as the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Together with Reverend Burnham and Reverend Broadhurst, Reverend Newton will oversee the catechetical preparation of the first groups of Anglicans in England and Wales who will be received into the Catholic Church together with their pastors at Easter, and to accompany the clergy preparing for ordination to the Catholic priesthood around Pentecost.
The provision of this new structure is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church. The initiative leading to the publication of the Apostolic Constitution and the erection of this Personal Ordinariate came from a number of different groups of Anglicans who have declared that they share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church. For them, the time has now come to express this implicit unity in the visible form of full communion.