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American Ordinariate given its first bishop

Pope Francis named Mgr Steven Lopes to be the first bishop of the Catholic Church's US ordinariate (CNS)

The American Ordinariate has been given its first bishop, the first for any of the Ordinariates around the world.

After consultation with the governing council of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, Pope Francis named Mgr Steven Lopes to be the first bishop of the ordinariate, which serves former Anglicans living in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

The appointment of the 40-year-old Bishop-designate Lopes was announced by the Vatican today along with the announcement that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Mgr Jeffrey Steenson, 63, who had led the ordinariate since its establishment by Pope Benedict XVI on January 1, 2012.

“This is the happy outcome of much careful consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to whom I first made this request almost a year ago,” Mgr Steenson said in a statement posted on the ordinariate’s website. “I welcome this news with all my heart, for the ordinariate has now progressed to the point where a bishop is much needed for our life and mission.”

The personal ordinariate serves parishes in the United States and Canada, with its offices in Houston, Texas.

Mgr Steenson was ineligible to become a bishop because he is married. After 28 years of ministry in the Church of England and in the Episcopal Church in the United States, he and his wife were received into the Catholic Church in 2007. He was ordained a Catholic priest two years later.

Bishop-designate Lopes, who was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 2001, has worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 2005. And since 2012 he has served as secretary of the Vatican’s “Anglicanae Traditiones” commission, which was responsible for developing “Divine Worship,” the new missal for use in the personal ordinariates. The missal combines elements of the Catholic and Anglican liturgical traditions.

Although Bishop-designate Lopes was not raised in the Anglican tradition, Mgr Steenson said he had worked so closely with former Anglicans and with the establishment of the ordinariates for them that “there is no one who knows better” the personal stories of those who joined the Catholic Church and the history of the creation of the ordinariates for Anglicans who wanted to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church while maintaining elements of their Anglican heritage and liturgy.

Bishop-designate Lopes was born April 22, 1975, in Fremont, California. He studied philosophy at the University of San Francisco and at Leopold-Franzens University in Innsbruck. He did his seminary studies at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, and in Rome at the Pontifical North American College. He holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.