Fr Tim Dean is responsible for communications at Westminster Cathedral, as well as being chaplain to the Choir School, editor of Oremus, the cathedral magazine, and director of RCIA. This piece is currently on the front page of the Westminster Cathedral website:
This is a historic weekend at Westminster Cathedral. For it is here that three former Anglican bishops have been ordained as priests of the Roman Catholic Church. Last week these three pastoral men were received into full communion. This week, they are Catholic priests, ordained by the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols.
When Pope Benedict announced the Ordinariate, many of us grappled with yet another puzzling word ending in –ate. In the Roman Catholic Church there are “Novitiates” for novices. The word for the ‘Mother House’ of a religious order is often “The Generalate”. There are other –ates. Add to this the bewildering word “Ordinary” which in Canon Law usually means a bishop! So the Ordinariate refers to the entity which embodies Episcopal authority in a particular context. It is intended for Anglicans who seek membership of the Roman Catholic Church without losing the spiritual, pastoral and cultural traditions of their unique heritage. As English Catholics we readily understand how important this tradition is in the Christian life of our nation. We have grown up with it, side by side with them! Anglican spirituality is an important subject in its own right.
The central purpose of Anglicanorum Coetibus (the pope’s document) is ”to maintain the…. traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift, nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.” The Ordinariate is to be a “specific ecclesiastical jurisdiction, similar to a diocese, led by a named bishop or priest. It will be on a personal rather than a territorial basis.” (A diocese is centred on a place and has boundaries. Cross the Thames and you leave the diocese of Westminster and enter Southwark.) You’ll find a very full explanation of the Ordinariate on the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBCEW).
So this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18-25 January) is a time for thanksgiving for the courage and clarity shown by our three new Catholic priests. We welcome them with joy for the gentle wisdom of Pope Benedict who has wanted to welcome them home.