2009-10-21 13:49:06


With the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution, the Catholic Church is responding to the
many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and
faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion.
In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that
provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates, which will allow
former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements
of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic
Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans
through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former
Anglican clergy.
The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution provides a reasonable and even necessary response
to a world-wide phenomenon, by offering a single canonical model for the universal Church
which is adaptable to various local situations and equitable to former Anglicans in its universal
application. It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy.
Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the
Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be
either a priest or an unmarried bishop. The seminarians in the Ordinariate are to be prepared
alongside other Catholic seminarians, though the Ordinariate may establish a house of formation
to address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony. In this way, the
Apostolic Constitution seeks to balance on the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy
Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony and, on the other hand, the concern that these groups
and their clergy will be integrated into the Catholic Church.
Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which
has prepared this provision, said: “We have been trying to meet the requests for full communion
that have come to us from Anglicans in different parts of the world in recent years in a uniform
and equitable way. With this proposal the Church wants to respond to the legitimate aspirations
of these Anglican groups for full and visible unity with the Bishop of Rome, successor of St.
These Personal Ordinariates will be formed, as needed, in consultation with local
Conferences of Bishops, and their structure will be similar in some ways to that of the Military
Ordinariates which have been established in most countries to provide pastoral care for the
members of the armed forces and their dependents throughout the world. “Those Anglicans who
have approached the Holy See have made clear their desire for full, visible unity in the one, holy,
catholic and apostolic Church. At the same time, they have told us of the importance of their
Anglican traditions of spirituality and worship for their faith journey,” Cardinal Levada said.
The provision of this new structure is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical
dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church, particularly through the
efforts of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. “The initiative has come
from a number of different groups of Anglicans,” Cardinal Levada went on to say: “They have
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declared that they share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the
Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church. For
them, the time has come to express this implicit unity in the visible form of full communion.”
According to Levada: “It is the hope of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, that the
Anglican clergy and faithful who desire union with the Catholic Church will find in this
canonical structure the opportunity to preserve those Anglican traditions precious to them and
consistent with the Catholic faith. Insofar as these traditions express in a distinctive way the faith
that is held in common, they are a gift to be shared in the wider Church. The unity of the Church
does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows.
Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the
principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: ‘There is one Lord, one faith, one
baptism’ (4:5). Our communion is therefore strengthened by such legitimate diversity, and so
we are happy that these men and women bring with them their particular contributions to our
common life of faith.”
Background information
Since the sixteenth century, when King Henry VIII declared the Church in England
independent of Papal Authority, the Church of England has created its own doctrinal confessions,
liturgical books, and pastoral practices, often incorporating ideas from the Reformation on the
European continent. The expansion of the British Empire, together with Anglican missionary
work, eventually gave rise to a world-wide Anglican Communion.
Throughout the more than 450 years of its history the question of the reunification of
Anglicans and Catholics has never been far from mind. In the mid-nineteenth century the Oxford
Movement (in England) saw a rekindling of interest in the Catholic aspects of Anglicanism. In
the early twentieth century Cardinal Mercier of Belgium entered into well publicized
conversations with Anglicans to explore the possibility of union with the Catholic Church under
the banner of an Anglicanism “reunited but not absorbed”.
At the Second Vatican Council hope for union was further nourished when the Decree on
Ecumenism (n. 13), referring to communions separated from the Catholic Church at the time of
the Reformation, stated that: “Among those in which Catholic traditions and institutions in part
continue to exist, the Anglican Communion occupies a special place.”
Since the Council, Anglican-Roman Catholic relations have created a much improved
climate of mutual understanding and cooperation. The Anglican-Roman Catholic International
Commission (ARCIC) produced a series of doctrinal statements over the years in the hope of
creating the basis for full and visible unity. For many in both communions, the ARCIC
statements provided a vehicle in which a common expression of faith could be recognized. It is
in this framework that this new provision should be seen.
In the years since the Council, some Anglicans have abandoned the tradition of conferring
Holy Orders only on men by calling women to the priesthood and the episcopacy. More
recently, some segments of the Anglican Communion have departed from the common biblical
teaching on human sexuality—already clearly stated in the ARCIC document “Life in
Christ”—by the ordination of openly homosexual clergy and the blessing of homosexual
partnerships. At the same time, as the Anglican Communion faces these new and difficult
challenges, the Catholic Church remains fully committed to continuing ecumenical engagement

with the Anglican Communion, particularly through the efforts of the Pontifical Council for the
Promotion of Christian Unity.
In the meantime, many individual Anglicans have entered into full communion with the
Catholic Church. Sometimes there have been groups of Anglicans who have entered while
preserving some “corporate” structure. Examples of this include, the Anglican diocese of
Amritsar in India, and some individual parishes in the United States which maintained an
Anglican identity when entering the Catholic Church under a “pastoral provision” adopted by
the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope John Paul II in 1982. In
these cases, the Catholic Church has frequently dispensed from the requirement of celibacy to
allow those married Anglican clergy who desire to continue ministerial service as Catholic
priests to be ordained in the Catholic Church.
In the light of these developments, the Personal Ordinariates established by the Apostolic
Constitution can be seen as another step toward the realization the aspiration for full, visible
union in the Church of Christ, one of the principal goals of the ecumenical movement.

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