Saturday, 1 January 2011
Three former Anglican bishops and three nuns are received into the Catholic Church today, as the Anglican Ordinariate is about to be created
The 12.30pm Mass at Westminster Cathedral was packed this afternoon, though most of those in the congregation had no idea that they were about to witness history being made. It was during this Mass, with no prior warning or publicity, that three former Anglican bishops, three young nuns from the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham, and two others - the wives of two of the bishops - were received into full communion with the Catholic Church, and the See of Rome. Many former Anglicans have become Catholics in the past, but these men and women will go on to form the first fruits of the "Anglican Ordinariate", when it is created by Papal decree before the middle of this month.
As ever, my photographic skills let me down today, but I did manage to take these three discreet images of the event. They show the rite of reception and the sacrament of Confirmation being administered by Bishop Alan Hopes - himself a former Anglican priest, and de facto spiritual guide for those wishing to join the Ordinariate. The three former Anglican bishops received into full communion this afternoon were: Andrew Burnham, Keith Newton and John Broadhurst. I also noticed another Anglican bishop in the congregation today, who was not received with the others - but who seemed to share in their joy.
The three former Anglican nuns were over-brimming with joy as they were received by Bishop Hopes. One of them held both thumbs up, and beamed a beautiful smile, as she left the sanctuary to the applause of all present. It was also good to see members of the congregation go up to them afterwards, with promises of prayers and best wishes.
Bishop Alan Hopes preached a sermon on Mary, the Theotokos, and how the Church overcame disunity and strife to proclaim her "the Mother of God". At the end of his homily, the Bishop referred to the Ordinariate and welcomed those who were about to be received into the Church. Bishop George Stack, also an auxiliary of Westminster, was present, too, and made a point - after Mass - of welcoming those who had just been received. There were also many other priests in the sanctuary, including Canon Christopher Tuckwell, the Cathedral's Administrator (himself a former Anglican priest), and Fr George Bowen of the London Oratory. Although Westminster Cathedral's Choir is on holiday, the Mass was sung, and the singing was led by the Cathedral's Precentor, Fr Alexander Master - who acted as cantor for the event.
Parts of the Mass were set to the Lourdes Mass, and the image of the holy spring at that famous French shrine kept coming to mind throughout. Here we saw a trickle, the beginnings of a stream, which will eventually - God-willing - become a mighty river of former Anglicans who wish to enter into full communion with the Successor of St Peter, whilst holding on to their own traditions and heritage. Just as the spring at Lourdes began with a few drops of water, it eventually became a mighty flood that nourishes the Church, so, too, will it be with the "Anglican Ordinariate". Once it begins, there'll be no stopping it - future generations will be grateful for the actions of these few brave men and women.
The manner in which these former Anglicans were received today was both dignified and sacred - and I am glad that no fuss was made prior to the event. There is no need for the Church to seem "trimuphalist" or for the press to be informed of every detail surrounding the setting up of the Ordinariate. For now, these men and women are travelling a very personal journey - in time, though, it will become a matter of great public interest.
May this holy and wonderful work, which is God's will, come to its fullness in Him.
(please see my previous post, here)