Pope Benedict XVI will officially name Australia’s Personal Ordinariate Our Lady of the Southern Cross, under the patronage of St Augustine of Canterbury, on 15 June.
Bishop Peter Elliott, project delegate for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the name of the Ordinary, the person who will lead the Ordinariate, would also be announced that day.
“The Ordinariate is a national diocese for former Anglicans who will enter full communion with the Catholic Church and yet retain their own heritage and traditions,” Bishop Elliott said.
“Many requests had come from groups to Rome in recent years, that is from Anglicans in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, who were deeply distressed at the ordination of women as priests and bishops and also most unhappy about other liberalising trends in the Anglican Communion.
“They requested that rather than being reconciled to the Church individually they might come to some corporate style of arrangement.
“I would encourage all the Catholics in Melbourne to take an interest in this new venture. It is an historical moment, of course it is small but from small things bigthings grow and I think this will have a remarkable future.”
Two main sources will make up the Ordinariate in Australia: members of the Anglican Church in Australia, the official Anglican denomination; and members of the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia, which is part of the breakaway Traditional Anglican Communion—people who left mainstream Anglicanism for the same reasons that they are now seeking ull communion with the Church. “In Melbourne the Ordinariate community is drawn from several mainstream parishes and also from a small community of the Traditional Anglican Communion,” BishopElliott said.
“To these two main groups we can add their immediate relatives who may already be Catholic and there is a provision also for any Catholic who once was an Anglican, which is an interesting feature.”
He said they were not sure of the precise number of people likely to enter the Ordinariate at this stage.
“There are groups in every state who have been preparing for reconciliation; that is, taking special courses in the catechism of the Catholic Church. The numbers are not clear at this stage, in the next week they will be clarified as admission forms circulate.
“Anglicans will have a choice. They can either come in and be official members of the Ordinariate. Or they can become Catholics and associate with the Ordinariate. Or they are free not to have anything to do with he Ordinariate, it’s their choice.”
All Catholics will be able to attend Mass and receive the sacraments celebrated within an Ordinariate parish.
Bishop Elliott said that the challenges that faced the Ordinariate at present were finance and property.
“In some places a church is already available for the Ordinariate but in most Catholic dioceses a church will have to be shared,” he said.
“In Melbourne it will be the Church of the Holy Cross in South Caulfield.
“The Ordinariate is part of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church; it’s not a distinct rite. It will have the privilege of a liturgy of its own.
“I am a member of the international commission preparing that liturgy. We are preparing a liturgy which draws upon the Roman Rite, the new rite and the old, plus various books of Common Prayer. This liturgy won’t be obligatory but it will be an option.”
Bishop Elliott has been following the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in Britain closely.
“I am friends with the Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, and I was present at the first birthday celebrations at St James Spanish Place in January,” he said.
“It was a magnificent occasion, with a lot of optimism and hope. They have problems with sharing property with existing Catholic parishes but they are working these things through and generally they have had a very warm welcoming from the bishops and the lay faithful. I think it’s heading for about 100 clergy. It’s growing steadily in the UK.”
Bishop Elliott, who himself converted from the Anglican Church to Catholicism, said, “It’s very strange the providence of God in my own life here, in a way that deeply moves me.
“There have been negative critics who have said ‘pigs will fly’; well at the Melbourne Ordinariate group meeting [recently], I was solemnly presented with a cast-iron pig with wings and we all cheered.
“It will not do harm to ecumenism because if these people are not happy where they are and seek full communion, let them have it. I think that is the attitude of the official Anglican authorities with whom we have spoken.”
One thing is for sure, they are ready… and organised! And while the coming Ordinariate may not be big, they’re certainly prepared, and getting on with it.