The Archbishop of Westminster has written to every parish in England and Wales encouraging them to welcome the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and praising the “beauty” of its Anglican heritage.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols’s letter, which will be read to parishioners in England and Wales on Sunday, encourages the faithful to read another letter written by the ordinary of the ordinariate, Mgr Keith Newton, to mark the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham on Tuesday.
Archbishop Nichols’s letter says: “I warmly encourage you to take home a copy of Mgr Newton’s letter and to welcome and support the clergy and faithful of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, both for the part they play in the life and mission of the Catholic Church in this country and for the particular gifts they bring which add to our rich diversity.”
“The ordinariate is the canonical structure set up in 2011 as the result of a generous initiative of Pope Benedict XVI. Under this structure, Anglicans who wish to enter the full communion of the Catholic Church, bringing with them some of the traditions and beauty of the Anglican heritage in which they were nurtured, may do so.”
In his letter to Catholics in England and Wales, Mgr Keith Newton writes that the ordinariate is “a small step towards healing one of the most damaging wounds of our history: the dividing of Christ’s Body, the Church in this land”.
He continues: “The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has begun in a small way but it is a concrete expression of the Church’s desire to fulfil our Lord’s command that ‘they may all be one’.”
Mgr Newton writes that the ordinariate was an answer to the prayers of many Anglicans who had wished for many years for union with the Catholic Church. He writes: “The ordinariate was a personal fulfilment of those prayers. It has been an incredible and uplifting journey for us all, full of grace, joy and blessings. Of course, we have experienced hardship and sacrifice as well. For many, especially those of our priests who are married with families, there has been great financial uncertainty; for us all it has meant leaving friends and familiar places of worship in the Church of England. We ask for your encouragement, your support and your prayers.”
Quoting Benedict XVI, he continued: “You may ask why we did not become Catholics in the usual way. It is a reasonable question but misses the most important point about the ordinariate, that it is ‘a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics’ and ‘It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all.’”
The ordinariate made history last Sunday when Andrew Harding became the first married man who had not been a minister in the Church of England to be ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham.
For an extended version of this article buy this week’s print edition of The Catholic Herald out on Friday