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Priests ordained to the world’s first ordinariate

Archbishop Vincent Nichols with the first clergy of the world's first Personal Ordinariate (Photo: James Bradley)

Three former Anglican bishops were ordained to the Catholic priesthood today as the founding members of the world’s first ordinariate for groups of ex-Anglicans.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster ordained the three men this morning at a packed Westminster Cathedral.

Keith Newton, the former Bishop of Richborough, Andrew Burnham, the former Bishop of Ebbsfleet, and John Broadhurst, the former Bishop of Fulham, were ordained Catholic priests just two days after their ordination to the diaconate and only two weeks after they were received into the Catholic Church.

The three men become the first clergy members of the world’s first personal ordinariate, established by a papal decree and known as the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, under the protection of Blessed John Henry Newman. The Ordinary, or head, of the ordinariate will be Fr Newton.

Fr Newton, Fr Burnham and Fr Broadhurst were three of five Anglican bishops in England and Wales who publicly announced that they would take up the offer made in the Pope’s November 2009 decree Anglicanorum coetibus.

All three were flying bishops in the Church of England, ministering to Anglo-Catholics who were not able in good conscience to accept the ordination of women priests. Their flocks are preparing to enter into the new ordinariate during Holy Week.

At the start of the Mass, Archbishop Nichols read the Bull establishing the ordinariate. In it, Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the ordinariate “marks a unique and historic moment in the life of the Catholic community in this country”.

The three men were presented for ordination by Westminster auxiliary Bishop Alan Hopes, himself a former Anglican.

In his homily, Archbishop Nichols thanked the Church of England, especially the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

Archbishop Nichols said: “I want in particular to recognise your dedication as priests and bishops of the Church of England and affirm the fruitfulness of your ministry.

“I thank so many in the Church of England who have recognised your sincerity and integrity in making this journey and who have assured you of their prayers and good wishes. First among these is Rowan, Archbishop of Canterbury, with his characteristic insight and generosity of heart and spirit. This journey of course involves some sad parting of friends. This too we recognise and it strengthens the warmth of our welcome.”

He added: “We thank our Holy Father Pope Benedict for not only placing this ordinariate under the protection of Our Lady of Walsingham but also for givuing it Bl John Henry Newman as its patron.”

Referring the Pope’s December 20 speech, Archbishop Nichols spoke about Blessed John Henry Newman’s idea of conscience.

He continued: “Today we thank the Holy Father for the courageous leadership he gives in establishing the first personal ordinariate. His intentions are clear. It is as he said, ‘a prophetic gesture’. It is to contribute to the wider goal of visible unity between our two Churches by helping us to know in practice how our patrimonies of faith and living can strengthen each other in our mission today.”

Archbishop Nichols said the Pope’s ministry was central to the visible unity of the Church.

He said: “It is central to the faith of those who enter into full communion in this ordinariat. It is central to the werlcome, encouragement and support the Catholic community in England and Wales gives to this development and to allk who seek to be part of it.”

He entrusted the ordinariate to the intercession of Our Lady of Walsingham.

After the laying on of hands and the prayer of ordination, Mrs Broadhurst, Mrs Burnham and Mrs Newton brought their husbands the symbols of the priesthood, the vestments.

The three former Anglican Sisters at Walsingham, who were received into the Catholic Church with the former bishops, brought up the gifts to Archbishop Nichols.

The music at the Mass was sung by Westminster Cathedral choir. The Mass was Missa O quam gloriosum. There was music by Elgar and Stanford. The closing hymn was Newman’s “Praise to the Holiest in the Height”.

More than 60 priests from across England and Wales concelebrated at the Mass of Ordination and laid their hands on the ordinands. Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, Auxiliary Bishop William Kenny of Birmingham, Bishop Hopes and Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood were among the bishops concelebrating at the Mass.

At Communion, many people came up to receive blessings from the new priests.

Fifty priests and 35 groups of Anglican lay people are expected to go through the Evangelium course and be received into the Catholic Church at Easter. The former Anglican clergy entering into the ordinariate will then be ordained priests at Pentecost.

There were at least three Anglican bishops from the Catholic wing of the Church of England in the congregation, the Rt Rev Lindsay Urwin, the administrator of the Anglican shrine at Walsingham, the Rt Rev Robert Ladds, former Bishop of Whitby, and Rt Rev Tony Robinson, Bishop of Pontefract.

Edwin Barnes, the retired Bishop of Richborough, David Silk, the retired bishop of Ballarat, and Robert Mercer, the former Bishop of Matabeleland, of the Traditional Anglican Communion, were in the congregation. So was Dr Robin Ward, the principal of St Stephen’s House, Oxford.

Edwin Barnes will be received into the Catholic Church at the church of Our Lady and St Joseph, Lymington, at the end of January and will become a priest just before Lent begins, on March 5.

David Silk has already been received into the Catholic Church and will be ordained a priest of the ordinariate on February 18.

After the Mass, one young woman in the congregation who hopes to be in the first wave of the ordinariate, said: “I thought it was tremendous and very moving and utterly joyful and historic. I feel so proud and thankful to the Pope. It’s just beyond our wildest dreams.

“I want to say it’s like coming home. I know that’s a cliché, but that’s what it feels like.”