LONDON, JAN. 16, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI appointed Father Keith Newton, former Anglican bishop, as the first ordinary for the new Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
The Vatican press office announced Saturday that Father Newton, 58, was chosen by the Pope to head the newly erected ordinariate in England and Wales for those groups of Anglican clergy and faithful who have expressed their desire to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.
The priest was one of three former Anglican bishops who were ordained to the Catholic priesthood on Saturday in Westminster Cathedral. The other two are Father Andrew Burnham and Father John Broadhurst.
Upon hearing of his appointment, Father Newton stated: “I can look back at over 35 years of ordained ministry with tremendous gratitude.
“The Church of England nourished me in the Christian faith and it was within her that I discovered, as a teenager, my vocation to the ordained ministry which has involved service both in England and Africa.
“I do not see my reception into the Catholic Church as a radical break but part of the ongoing pilgrimage of faith which began at my baptism. Since my teenage years I have longed and prayed for corporate unity with the Catholic Church and the publication of the apostolic constitution has offered the possibility of realizing that dream.”
The priest expressed particular gratitude to the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, “for his patience and graciousness with those of us who have been exploring our way forward over the last few months.”
He concluded, “I hope the ordinariate will be a gift to the Catholic Church and that I, together with those priests and people who join the ordinariate, will be of service to the whole Church.”
Born in Liverpool, Keith Newton married Gill Donnison in 1973. They have three children and one grandchild.
In a communiqué regarding the creation of the new ordinariate, the Holy See explained that “for doctrinal reasons the Church does not, in any circumstances, allow the ordination of married men as bishops.”
“However,” it added, “the apostolic constitution [‘Anglicanorum coetibus’] does provide, under certain conditions, for the ordination as Catholic priests of former Anglican married clergy.”
Keith Newton was received into the Catholic Church along with his wife on Jan. 1. He was ordained a Catholic deacon on Thursday, two days before he became a priest.
Previously, he had served as an Anglican priest since 1976, and a bishop for the Church of England since 2002.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, welcomed the news of Father Newton’s appointment as ordinary, noting that he “will prove to be a valued member” of the conference.
In a statement published Tuesday, the conference’s general secretary, Father Marcus Stock, explained: “As the ordinary of the ordinariate has similar authority and responsibilities in canon law to a diocesan bishop he will therefore be an ex officio member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
“As a member of the conference, the ordinary will, like a diocesan bishop, take a full part in its discussions and decisions.
“The ordinary will exercise collegiate responsibility for implementing the resolutions taken by the conference within the life of the ordinariate in the same way that a diocesan bishop does so within his diocese.”
Archbishop Nichols assured all three clergy “of the continuing prayers and support of the bishops’ conference, as they now begin their new ministry within the Catholic Church in the personal ordinariate.”
The Holy See communiqué noted that these three clergy “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.”
They will also “accompany the clergy preparing for ordination to the Catholic priesthood around Pentecost.”
In a message published for Saturday’s ordination, Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, stated, “I urge you all to assist the new ordinary in the unique mission which has been entrusted to him not only with your prayers but also with every practical support.”
— — —
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Holy See statement: http://zenit.org/article-31468?l=english
Cardinal Levada’s message: http://zenit.org/article-31469?l=english
Father Stock’s statement: http://zenit.org/article-31467?l=english
On the Net:
Father Newton’s statement: http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/Catholic-Church/Ordinariate/