By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — For perhaps the first time ever, Anglican hymns, chants and prayers reverberated off the marble walls of St. Peter’s Basilica as some members of the world’s first ordinariate for former Anglicans celebrated their coming into the Catholic Church.
“Wonderful is not a strong enough word to express how we feel to be here,” where the apostle Peter gave his life “and where his successors guarded the faith for generations,” said Father Len Black in his homily.
Mass at the basilica and the pilgrimage to Rome generated “a feeling of coming home,” said the Catholic priest who served as an Episcopalian pastor in the Scottish Highlands for 31 years.
The group of about 94 pilgrims, including a dozen priests, was led by Msgr. Keith Newton, head of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which was established in January 2011 for former Anglicans in England and Wales.
After celebrating morning Mass Feb. 24 in a side chapel, the group moved to the center of the basilica and stood in front of the “Confessio” — a lower chapel honoring St. Peter’s confession of faith that led to his martyrdom — and recited the General Thanksgiving, a traditional Anglican prayer.
“That was very moving, thanking God for all we received this year and for the pilgrimage,” he told Catholic News Service.
The weeklong Lenten pilgrimage highlighted the season’s call to conversion but also was an opportunity to thank Pope Benedict XVI for establishing a structure for welcoming former Anglicans into the Catholic Church. Msgr. Newton, the ordinary, also met briefly with the pope at the end of the pope’s general audience Feb. 22.
The pope’s 2009 apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum coetibus” provided a way for entire Anglican parishes or groups to become Catholic while retaining some of their Anglican heritage and liturgical practice.
“We felt this was the answer to our prayers” for corporate Christian unity, the monsignor said.
Ecumenical dialogue seems to no longer have full and visible corporate union as its goal, he said.
Dialogue has become more of an exercise in finding common ground and ways to cooperate, while the Anglican Communion falls further away from seeking revealed truth, Msgr. Newton said.
He said Blessed John Henry Newman saw himself engaged in a battle against liberalism, or rather, “that view that it didn’t really matter what you believed, they were all equally important and that there was no such thing as revealed religion.”
“And I think that’s exactly what’s happening in the Anglican community — it’s all personal opinions,” he said.
“The problem of the ordination of women and gay marriage are symptoms of the problem — the problem I think is liberalism in religion, secularism.”
Msgr. Newton, who was an Anglican bishop, said the real underlying motive for him and many others to break with the Anglican Church was “because we believe in revealed truth” and obedience.
The creation of an ordinariate, which is similar to a diocese but national in scope, was a particularly Catholic way of building reciprocity between traditions in which each shares and contributes its own unique gifts with the other, he said.
“That seems to be exactly the way that ecumenism should go,” he said. “It’s the Holy Father’s vision and we’ve got him to thank for it.”
The ordinariate in England and Wales recently celebrated its one-year anniversary while the U.S. ordinariate was officially inaugurated in mid-February.
While the situation in predominately Anglican Great Britain is unique, Msgr. Newton said there are some lessons learned to pass on.
The biggest challenges have been practical issues, he said, such as determining where clergy, especially those who are married with families, will live; deciding how much priests will be paid; and finding a place and time to worship that’s convenient for parishioners and clergy.
“One of the lessons we all learned is when you begin this process, you can’t know exactly how it’s going to work out for you as an individual; it really is a step of faith.”
Michael Vian Clark, director of music at the Benedictine Buckfast Abbey in Devon, cobbled together “a scratch choir” out of the pilgrims who came from different parts of Great Britain.
People who didn’t know each other were singing Roman-rite chants and Anglican hymns and psalms in harmony without much practice or preparation because “there’s a ‘have a go’ attitude in the Anglican tradition, particularly with music,” he said.
“Good music in the liturgy is a slice of heaven,” Vian Clark said. “It’s a glimpse to heaven and it allows people to realize that the liturgy and the Mass is a gift which is not of this world.
“It’s something that raises all of our hearts and minds and send us out with a sense of true Christian joy, and I think the Holy Father understands that that’s really important,” he said.