Fr Mark Elliott Smith of St Paul’s, Tottenham, made the following announcement over the weekend in his parish magazine, Apostle:
In the last edition of the Apostle I reflected on the visit of the Holy Father to England, the high point of which was the Mass at Cofton Park. At the beginning of the Mass Pope Benedict beatified John Henry Newman, one of the great founders of the Oxford Movement. This movement was an attempt to recall the Church of England to its Catholic roots. Eventually Newman came to the conclusion that God was calling him to full communion with the See of Peter and was received into the Catholic Church by Bl Dominic Barberi, a priest of the Passionist Order, on October 8 1845.
Since the publication of the document Anglicanorum Coetibus, which is an invitation to groups of Anglicans to be received into full communion with Rome, I have been considering my position in the Church of England very carefully. You will know that I have been dismayed by recent developments in the Anglican Communion, particularly the General Synod’s decision to prepare legislation to allow women to be ordained as Bishops. My dismay has nothing to do with the status of women as I believe absolutely in the equality of the sexes. It has to do with the unity of the Church for which Christ prayed. That unity cannot now be achieved, at least not for generations. There may be friendship across the ecumenical divide, a realisation that our common baptism brings us together in some ways, but sacramental unity, no.
It is for this reason that I have decided that I cannot now, in good conscience, remain in the Church of England. It is my intention to be reconciled to the Catholic Church. There is great sadness in this decision, for I love S. Paul’s Tottenham, great parish that it undoubtedly is; it will always have a special place in my heart and in my prayers. It is, after all, the parish where I have served, man and boy you might say, for nearly ten years, on and off.
My last Sunday will be on 6 March and I hope that everyone will make an effort to be here on that day.
The Ordinariate, the structure proposed by Anglicanorum Coetibus and similar to a diocese has now been established: Fr Keith Newton, the former Bishop of Richborough, is its first ordinary. It is dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham and is under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman. Groups of Anglicans, along with clergy, will be enrolled as candidates for the Ordinariate at the start of Lent and be received into the Catholic Church in Holy Week.
At the time of writing I don’t know for sure where I will be living, though I believe it will be near Euston, so not very far away. God willing, I will be ordained as Deacon sometime just after Easter and Priest around Pentecost. As soon as I know these dates, I will let you all know.
In the meantime, please pray for Fr Christopher and Fr Luke, the Archdeacon, and all those who will be covering the interregnum. I know that Bishop Peter will be keen to make quite a swift appointment, so I do not believe the interval between incumbents will be a long one.
There may, of course, be people who are confused about the situation and who want to talk this through. Anyone in this position is most welcome to do so. Please have a word with me about this.
It is very much a leap into the unknown, or almost unknown. It is a decision which has not been taken lightly or hastily and certainly not without anguish. But we all of us have to act on what we believe to be God’s will and to go where we believe he calls us. But please be assured of my prayers for you all, and I would be grateful if you would keep me in yours.