Over these last few days, the “Catholic Journalist” has not been in London, but in Alabama! I have been at EWTN, making a new series of programmes. Watch for these in due course!
Meanwhile, back in Britain, great events have been taking place. The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has been formally established and the first ordinations have taken place in Westminster Cathedral. The new Ordinary is to be Father Keith Newton, one of the three former Anglican Bishops whose entry into full communion with the Catholic Church and subsequent ordination has been at the heart of the establishment of the Ordinariate.
The Ordinariate is being placed under the spiritual patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman. There is a sense of history being made. The recent visit to Britain of the Holy Father, and that glorious Beatification Mass for John Henry Newman on the hillside outside Birmingham paved the way for the establishment of this Ordinariate. And throughout the Papal Visit, there was an atmosphere of great friendship and goodwill between Catholics and Anglicans, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Pope praying publicly together, sharing common worship in Westminster Abbey, embracing, and giving witness to the Christian faith together.
Now comes a chapter which opens up a new dimension. Father Keith Newton will not be a Bishop. (It is not possible for him to be one because he is married, and the Catholic understanding on this is clear.) But he will be the leader of the Ordinariate in Britain, and, as such, will guide and direct its priests and people over these next weeks and months – and years – as it takes shape. There are many challenges. Where will the new Ordinariate parishes worship? They will probably use local Catholic churches, and time-slots will be found for them. Perhaps Catholic schools could also make halls available for Sunday Mass.
The clergy who will form the core of the new Ordinariate face financial hardship, and the breaking of links with much-loved church buildings and local traditions. We must pray that, in the longer term, it will be possible for new arrangements to be made that heal old divisions – everything is possible where there is friendship and goodwill.
When I fly home, I am due to speak to an Ordinariate group in Kent and am much looking forward to it. And all of this is taking place at a time when the worldwide Church is rejoicing in the great news that our beloved John Paul the Great is to be beatified on May 1st. That is a special weekend for Britain – a holiday weekend, with the Royal Wedding on April 29th! So there will be much to celebrate…