Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 26, 2009
Rome open door for conservative Anglicans
Newcomers will recognize pope's role
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict has established a special structure for Anglicans who want to be in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, said Cardinal William Levada.
The new "personal ordinariates" - similar to dioceses - would preserve aspects of their Anglican spiritual and liturgical heritage, said the cardinal, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The new ordinariates would oversee the pastoral care of those who want to bring elements of their Anglican identity into the Catholic Church with them, he said.
The cardinal announced the new arrangement at a press conference Oct. 20. The pope's apostolic constitution and norms for implementing it are undergoing final revisions and will be published in a couple of weeks.
Anglican priests who are married may be ordained Catholic priests, but married Anglican bishops will not be able to function as Catholic bishops in keeping with the long-standing Catholic and Orthodox tradition of ordaining only unmarried clergy as bishops, Levada said.
In establishing the new jurisdictions, Pope Benedict is responding to "many requests" submitted by individual Anglicans and by Anglican groups - including "20 to 30 bishops" - asking to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, the cardinal said.
At the same time, Levada said the provision does not weaken the commitment of the Vatican to promoting Christian unity.
It is a recognition that many Anglicans share the Catholic faith and that Anglicans have a spiritual and liturgical life worth preserving, he said.
"It has always been the principal aim - the principal aim - to achieve the full, visible unity" of the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion, the cardinal said.
But given recent changes within many Anglican provinces with the ordination of women priests and bishops and the acceptance of homosexuality in some areas, the prospect of full unity "seemed to recede."
The Church welcomes those Anglicans who fully share the Catholic faith, agree with the Catholic view that only men can be ordained priests and recognize the role of the bishop of Rome - the pope - as the sign and guarantor of Church unity, he said.
Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Communion, and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, held a press conference Oct. 20 in London to issue a joint statement.
The new provisions, the statement said, are a recognition of "the substantial overlap in faith, doctrine and spirituality between the Catholic Church and the Anglican tradition."
"Without the dialogues of the past 40 years, this recognition would not have been possible, nor would hopes for full visible unity have been nurtured."
Williams told reporters that some members of the Church of England are uneasy about positions their Church is taking, yet they would not want to become Roman Catholic.
"This will not resolve their challenges, and we in the Church of England have to continue to engage with that," he said.
Levada told reporters he met personally Oct. 19 with Williams, who had been told about the new arrangement a month earlier.
In a letter to top Anglican leaders, Williams said, "In the light of recent discussions with senior officials in the Vatican, I can say that this new possibility is in no sense at all intended to undermine existing relations between our two communions or to be an act of proselytism or aggression.
"It is described as simply a response to specific inquiries from certain Anglican groups and individuals wishing to find their future within the Roman Catholic Church."
Levada also said Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, had been informed about the pope's decision. Kasper did not attend the Vatican press conference.
Asked Oct. 15 about the possible entrance of groups of former Anglicans into the Catholic Church, Kasper said, "We are not fishing in the Anglican lake; proselytism is not the policy of the Catholic Church.
"But if there are people who, obeying their consciences, want to become Catholic, we cannot shut the door."
In 1993 the Catholic bishops of England and Wales asked the Vatican not to implement special structures for former Anglicans in their country.
The formation of Anglican-identity Catholic parishes would only further fracture the Christian community and would make the eventual unity of the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion more difficult, the bishops said.
Participants in the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue also have expressed concern in the past that the movement of Catholics to the Anglican Communion is making the Anglican Communion more liberal, while the movement of Anglicans to the Catholic Church is making the Catholic community more conservative.
However, Archbishop Augustina Di Noia, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, said, "The ecumenical movement has changed. There has been a tremendous shift" in the prospects for full union.
Many Anglicans already consider themselves to be Catholic, Di Noia said, and the pope's new initiative will make "explicit the bond that is already implicit."
Many now seeking communion with Rome wanted a stronger affirmation of their Anglican heritage and a guarantee that it would continue to have a place in the Catholic Church, he said.
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