LONDON, JAN. 11, 2011 (Zenit.org).- On Saturday in Westminster Cathedral, three former Anglican bishops will enter the Catholic priesthood, becoming the first members of a new ordinariate as stipulated in “Anglicanorum Coetibus.”
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, released a statement noting that “on or before this date, I expect the Holy See to announce the establishment of the first ordinariate for groups of former Anglicans and their clergy who seek full communion in the Catholic Church.”
He pointed out that “this is a unique moment and the Catholic community in England and Wales is privileged to be playing its part in this historic development in the life of the universal Church.”
The prelate offered a “warm welcome” to John Broadhurst, Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton, who will be ordained on Saturday.
He also extended a welcome to those who wish to join these clergy “in full communion with the Pope in the visible unity of the Catholic Church.”
The archbishop continued: “We recognize the journey they are making with its painful departures and its uncertainties.
“We salute their depth of searching prayer and the desire which leads them to seek to live within the community of the Catholic Church under the ministry of the Bishop of Rome. This is the faith we share.”
Archbishop Nichols expressed gratitude “for the depth” of the “firm, positive and ongoing” relationship that exists between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, which is "the context for Saturday’s important initiative.”
He mentioned in particular the “sensitive leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury,” who “graciously acknowledges the integrity of those seeking to join the ordinariate and has assured them of his prayers.”
The prelate noted that Benedict XVI “has made clear his own intentions: that the ordinariate can serve the wider cause of visible unity between our two churches by demonstrating in practice the extent to which we have so much to give to each other in our common service of the Lord.”
“With this in mind he describes this step as ‘a prophetic gesture,'” the archbishop stated.
He concluded, “With great trust in the Lord, we look forward to Saturday, to the new phase of Church life it brings and we ask God’s blessing on its future development.”
An explanatory note from the bishops’ conference added that “a key aspect of the establishment of the ordinariate by Pope Benedict is that it enables groups of former Anglicans and their clergy to stay together.”
“This is quite new,” it explained, “as previously former Anglican clergy seeking ordination in the Catholic Church were separated from their communities, even if some members of those communities also became Catholics,” and thus “a different timetable is required if this new aspect is to be achieved.”
“For this reason,” the note stated, “the ordinations of the first priests for the ordinariate will take place while their formation is still in process so as to enable them to minister to their communities within the full communion of the Catholic Church.”
It continued, “The ordinations of the former Anglican bishops are taking place at this time with the expressed permission of the Holy Father so that they can play a role in the very first stages of the development of the ordinariate.”
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On the Net:
For more background information: http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/Catholic-Church/Ordinariate/Background-Information