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Why the Ordinariate is the ‘living form’ of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism


Extraordinary unity: UK Monsignor Keith Newton, Australian Monsignor Harry Entwistle and US Bishop Steven Lopes are Ordinaries for the Personal Ordinariate. They held their annual meeting in Australia coinciding with the country’s fifth anniversary since the formation of Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Photo: Emilie Ng.

CHRISTIAN unity has various meanings within the Catholic Church, but for two former Anglican Bishops and one Catholic Bishop it is more than just “working together”.

Monsignor Harry Entwistle, Monsignor Keith Newton and Catholic Bishop Steven Lopes are the world’s first Ordinaries for the extraordinary canonical structure that allows former Anglicans to be in full communion with the Church while retaining key aspects of their distinctive identity.

The Personal Ordinariate is the answer to the prayers of thousands of Anglicans who after thoughtful discernment have sought full communion with the Catholic Church.

For the three ordinaries, the Personal Ordinariate is the first real example of true Christian unity and ecumenism.

“I have no doubt that if you read the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) that actually the ordinariate is the first occasion where that vision of that document has been fulfilled,” Msgr Newton said.

“When people are looking for what ecumenism really is, here it is, in a living form.”

What that means is the ordinariate, which became possible in 2009 through Pope Benedict XVI’s promulgation of the apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, gives former Anglicans a way to express their tradition, heritage and elements of worship but still be in full communion with the Catholic Church.

The community, which operates similarly to dioceses, has its own approved Missal, places a great emphasis on beautiful music and worship, and retains many Anglican-rooted aspects of pastoral care.

“What we pray is who we are and therefore the liturgy form that is now fully Catholic, approved by the Holy See, encapsulates a lot of the patrimony pre-reformation and post-reformation of the Anglican tradition,” Msgr Entwistle said.

“There is a poetry in the language, there is a rhythm to the language and somehow that connects with people’s desire and search for truth, and beauty and holiness.”

The ordinariate is the first time any group has been able to enter the Catholic Church without abandoning their entire identity, which Bishop Lopes calls “realised ecumenism”.

“It’s an ecumenical sensitivity on the part of the Popes that has allowed this movement, recognising that the Holy Spirit has been truly working in this community outside of full communion, drawing them into the fullness of communion of the Church,” Bishop Lopes said.

“I think it gives a very fine example to people who are paying attention outside of the Church (that) there’s a way to become Catholic where we can still maintain very key elements of our identity.

“I’m not simply swept away but celebrated and welcomed by the Church.”

Msgr Newton’s communion with the Catholic Church came at a time when he was a Bishop for the Church of England and followed a lifelong desire for unity.

That path was imminent as he saw the Anglican Communion accepting women ordinations, new definitions of marriage and “the breakdown of any moral values” regarding marriage and abortion.

“Those were sort of the symptoms that led you to start to discern where are you and what are you doing, and it is, in the end, to believe that (the Catholic Church) is the Church that Jesus Christ founded,” Msgr Newton said.

Msgr Newton said it was the Anglican Church that set up barriers to dissuade unity with the Catholic Church, but in 2009 his hopes of communion were restored.

“When Pope Benedict XVI published the apostolic constitution (Anglicanorum Coetibus) this was an answer to my prayers of 40 years really,” Msgr Newton said.

“That we, not just as individual Anglicans converting to become Catholics, but as groups of us who wanted to enter into full communion, were able to do so.”

Msgr Newton publicly professed his belief that the Catholic Church was the true Church of Jesus Christ in January of 2011, and was received into the Catholic Church along with his wife, Gill Newton, and ordained a Catholic deacon and then a priest that same month.

During his reception into the Church, Msgr Newton professed belief in the creed and all the Catholic Church believed without exception.

“And when I did it I meant it,” Msgr Newton said.

He said the greatest gift he has received since entering the Church six years ago was the Catechism.

“I think it’s an incredible gift to say, whatever somebody might say I can say this is what the Church teaches,” Msgr Newton said.

“I think you’re bound to find that converts are going to be more strict because we’ve actually made a decision to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.

“It’s not an à la carte where you choose – you take the whole thing.”

The same day of his priestly ordination, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Msgr Newton as the first Ordinary for the newly formed Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England, the first of three set up worldwide.

An Ordinariate in the United States followed suit in 2012 and in that same year, Australia also came on board.

Australia’s Ordinary, Msgr Entwistle, said the realisation that the Anglican Church was not the true Church of Christ was “a shock to some degree”.

Growing up in England during a time when “sectarianism was very alive” the former Anglican Bishop said he was brought up to tolerate the Catholic Church “but there was a distance and you knew where you fitted”.

“I eventually got to a position that I felt that my Mother, who was the Church of England, she had abandoned me by dying,” Msgr Entwistle said.

“And so for me to actually come to the recognition that the Church of Rome, the Western Catholic Rite was in fact the Church founded by Jesus Christ and therefore the true Catholic Church was very difficult to grasp.

“I had never imagined that I would actually become a member of the Catholic Church.”

But on June 10, 2012, Msgr Entwistle did become a Catholic, and was also ordained a Catholic deacon.

Five days later he was ordained a priest and named the first Ordinary for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.

Unlike his English counterparts, Bishop Lopes has never been an Anglican but was raised a cradle Catholic.

While still a priest, he served as official for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and was involved in the group that developed Anglicanorum Coetibus.

In 2015 Pope Francis appointed him as the first Bishop of the Ordinariate in the United States, a role Bishop Lopes said was “a great privilege” despite having no spiritual connection to the Anglican church.

“My clergy are very good at the patrimony piece and the understanding of their heritage and how to bring that to new fruitfulness in the Catholic Church,” Bishop Lopes said.

“What they look to me sometimes for is the sense of how to integrate that into the Catholic community.

“I find it a very complementary relationship.”

This year the Ordinariate in Australia celebrates its fifth anniversary and marked the occasion in Brisbane last week.

It was also the first time the three ordinaries met together publicly in Australia.

Though it is still in its infancy, the ordinariate is slowly growing worldwide.

There are more than 40 communities in the US, nine in Canada, thirteen communities in Australia, two in Japan, and, most recently established a smaller group in the Torres Strait.

There are also talks of starting in Puerto Rico with communities who were evangelised by Anglicans 100 years ago.

While it was Pope Benedict XVI who set the foundations for the ordinariate, Bishop Lopes said despite common remarks from journalists and Vatican commentators, Pope Francis is making his predecessor’s vision “much more concrete”.

Pope Francis was responsible for authorising the ordinariate’s unique missal for the celebration of Mass known formally as Divine Worship but among the clergy as “the Missal of Pope Francis”.

He also expanded the membership to the ordinariate, allowing baptised Catholics who had not received the Sacraments of Reconciliation and First Communion to complete their initiation in the ordinariate.

Bishop Lopes said these actions showed Pope Francis was giving the ordinariate an important evangelisation mission in the Church.

“That’s classic Pope Francis, to go out of yourselves,” Bishop Lopes said.

“That this isn’t just tea and biscuit society but we’re evangelising.”

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