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Pontiff to permit Anglican communities to join Catholic Church

CWN - October 20, 2009

Pope Benedict is promulgating an apostolic constitution that will permit Anglican communities whose members wish to be received into the Catholic Church to do so as communities.

The papal document allows for the creation of "personal ordinariates" to be headed by formerly Anglican priests, providing a structure within the Catholic hierarchy to supervise the pastoral care of Anglicans who have become Catholics. These "personal ordinariates" would be integrated into national episcopal conferences, but encouraged to preserve the distinctive aspects of the Anglican tradition.

“In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony,” according to a note published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.”

"The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution provides a reasonable and even necessary response to a world-wide phenomenon, by offering a single canonical model for the universal Church which is adaptable to various local situations and equitable to former Anglicans in its universal application," the note continues. "It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy. Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop. The seminarians in the Ordinariate are to be prepared alongside other Catholic seminarians, though the Ordinariate may establish a house of formation to address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony. In this way, the Apostolic Constitution seeks to balance on the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony and, on the other hand, the concern that these groups and their clergy will be integrated into the Catholic Church."

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury-- Dr. Rowan Williams, the primate of the Anglican Communion-- issued a joint statement in response to the announcement. Their joint statement said that the new apostolic constitution was the fruit of years of ecumenical dialogue, without which such a rapprochement would not be possible. Acknowledging that recent developments in the Anglican communion have complicated the quest for reunion with Rome, the joint statement nevertheless insists that both the Vatican and the Anglican communion remain committed to the ecumenical process.

[For further analysis see Phil Lawler's Commentary piece: The Pope's Bold Invitation to Anglicans.]

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  • Posted by: - Oct. 20, 2009 5:53 PM ET USA

    Let's pray fervently to Our Lady for those Anglican brothers and sisters who make this journey. Not all will be easy. Relatives will be angered. disposing of church property will result in endless rows. But, the end of the journey will be the same as for Cleophas and his companion,(Lk. 24)They will find Him in the shelter on the road to Emmaus.

  • Posted by: Lisa Nicholas, PhD - Oct. 20, 2009 4:49 PM ET USA

    As a long-time member of an Anglican Use Catholic parish in Texas, I'm delighted to learn that Anglicans around the world will now have the opportunity to come into full Communion with Rome while retaining the distinctive Anglican piety and worship. I'm also thrilled that, coincidentally, my parish's celebration of Solemn Evensong tomorrow, to commemorate Blessed Karl of Austria, can also double as a celebration of this wonderful news!

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