Secular and religious commentators of every kind are busy opining about the legacy of Benedict XVI, after Monday's stunning announcement that he will step down from the See of Peter at the end of this month. The leader of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter suggests that one of the key pieces of this legacy is the Pope's work to reconcile Anglicans with the Church.
In a statement Monday, Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson said this reconciliation was one of the Pope's "principal tasks," both as Pontiff, and beforehand, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"We members of the Ordinariate are in a particular way the spiritual children of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI," he said.
Monsignor Steenson, who directs the second of three ordinariates thus far established for Anglicans seeking full communion with Rome, said that hearts are saddened with the news of the resignation, "but there is a deeper joy knowing that we are the fruit of his vision for Catholic unity."
"And we will pray and work diligently so that his labors in the vineyard might continue to bring forth a fruitful harvest," Monsignor Steenson added.
On June 15, 2012, Benedict XVI established the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia; the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was established Jan. 1, 2012, and includes the United States and Canada. The first to be established, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, was created Jan. 15, 2011, and includes England, Wales and Scotland.
Monsignor Keith Newton, ordinary of the England-based ordinariate, called Benedict XVI's pontificate an "astonishing moment in the life of the Church."
"He has exercised his pontificate with gentle wisdom and deep humility and will be especially remembered for his clear and profound teaching," Monsignor Newton said. "Those of us in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham have particular reason to thank God for his pontificate, as he opened the way for Anglicans to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church through his Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. He will forever hold a place in the hearts of those of us to whom he has been, in a particular way, a shepherd and Father."
Monsignor Steenson echoed those sentiments: "When Pope Benedict issued the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus in November 2009, he laid a permanent foundation for the Ordinariate, to be the means to reconcile Anglican groups to the Catholic Church and that this Anglican patrimony might be shared with the Catholic Church. While the Ordinariate has been a special intention of Pope Benedict, it is now firmly established in the Catholic Church and will continue to serve as an instrument for Christian unity."
The ordinary added that "perhaps the most important thing that we can say at this time is a heart-felt thank you to Pope Benedict XVI, for giving to us this beautiful gift of communion."