The Mass in which the three former Anglican bishops, Rev John Broadhurst, Rev Andrew Burnham, Rev Keith Newton were ordained into the Catholic priesthood has just come to an end. It was a joyous event, which saw Westminster Cathedral packed, with standing room only - I found a seat behind a pillar, close to the confessionals, in front of the Lady Chapel!
It was good to see so many Catholic faithful at the Mass, all of us wishing to show our solidarity with our new priests, and our support for the world's first ever personal ordinariate. The Cathedral Choir added to the joy and solemnity of the occasion by singing the Mass, which was set to Missa O magnum mysterium by Tomas Luis da Victoria.
There were many ecclesiastical guests at the Ordination, including Most Rev Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham. There were several other bishops, too, and at least a couple of abbots – as well as representatives from other Churches. Many journalists, broadcasters and other members of the press were also at the Mass. I doubt as many cameras and journalists have been present at Westminster Cathedral in its 100 year history!
At the beginning of the Mass, Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, read a message (here) from the Prefect of the Congregati
Archbishop Nichols warmly welcomed the three ordinands during his homily (here). He also thanked “...so many in the Church of England” who have recognised the sincerity and integrity of the three former bishops, and who had also assured them of their prayers and good wishes. The Archbishop specifically mentioned the Archbishop of Canterbury - who had shown his support: “with his characteristic insight, and generosity of heart and spirit.” Vincent Nichols also thanked the Holy Father for “...not only placing this Ordinariate under the protection of Our Lady of Walsingham but also for giving it Blessed John Henry Newman as its patron.” After this, Archbishop Nichols went on to reflect, using many examples from the writings of Pope Benedict XVI, on Bl John Henry Newman’s life and witness – concentrating on the sacrifices he made when following his conscience in accepting the truth of the Catholic faith.
Archbishop Nichols also emphasised in his homily the importance of full and visible unity in the Church. In this respect he thanked the Pope, again:
“...for the courageous leadership he gives in establishing the first Personal Ordinariate. His intentions are clear. It is, as he has 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. It (the Ordinariate) 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 Archbishop finished his homily by asking for the intercession of Our Lady of Walsingham and Bl John Henry Newman.
Fr Keith Newton published a statement before the Mass (here), in which he said:
"I am humbled to have been appointed by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, as the first Ordinary for the Personal Ordinariate to be erected in Great Britain under the provisions set out in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. This is not an honour I have sought or expected but I pray that God will give me the wisdom and grace to live up to the trust the Holy Father has placed in me.”He also expressed his gratitude to the Archbishop of Canterbury, for “his patience and graciousness with those of us who have been exploring our way forward over the last few months.” He also said that he was grateful for “the countless words and signs of welcome I have received from many members of the Catholic Church over recent days.” Fr Newton finished by praying that the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, its various members, as well as his own ministry as a Catholic priest would be “of service to the whole Church.”
As I have mentioned before, there were dozens of journalists, TV cameras and photographers at the Mass, so I have no doubt that there will be many excellent photos of this event, as well as professional articles discussing its implications. I felt immensely privileged to have been able to attend this historic occasion, and offered my prayers, together (I'm sure) with the countless other laity in the congregation, for God’s blessing on this most wonderful work He has begun. It truly felt as if the damage of the Reformation here in England and Wales is finally beginning to be repaired, and properly healed. What better way to start Christian Unity week (which begins on 18 January) than with this prophetic, powerful and Divinely inspired gift of true ecumenism!
[Picture note: 1. Archbishop Vincent Nichols reading Cardinal Levada's message, which announced that the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham had been created by decree. 2. Very Rev Fr Keith Newton, Ordinary of the newly created Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham; Source: Bishops' Conference for England and Wales (here). 3. The Press Gallery, aka Westminster Cathedral's main pulpit! I apologise for the poor quality of these images. I spotted the Catholic Church in England and Wales's phtographer, Marcin Mazur, so expect photos to be uploaded to the Church's Flick account sometime soon (here)]