Anglican patrimony at Westminster

Westminster Cathedral is the best-known Catholic landmark in London: its tall redbrick tower and magnificent Byzantine-style architecture make tourists stop and enquire about it, thousands of Catholics worship there each week, and since it was first opened in the 1900s countless people have found solace and communion with God kneeling beneath its vast arches and domes.

Just recently this most Catholic of buildings echoed to the sound of Cranmer’s prose from the Book of Common Prayer – words and phrases that have been part of the patrimony of the Church of England for four centuries. What was happening? It was a Mass celebrated in the Ordinariate Use – the liturgy of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. This form of the Mass includes many of the phrases from the Book of Common Prayer, brought together with the words of the Roman Rite to honour what Pope Benedict XVI described as the “Anglican patrimony”.

The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was established by Benedict XVI in his invitation Anglicanorum Coetibus – “to groups of Anglicans”. The invitation to them was to come into full communion with the Catholic Church, and to bring with them their traditions of worship, their own patrimony – in prayers and in hymns, and in the way they mark feasts and festivals, run their parishes and generally organise themselves.

Today there are some 80 priests of the Ordinariate, and they have two churches in London: the Church of Our Lady and St Gregory in Warwick Street near Piccadilly Circus, and the Church of the Most Precious Blood at The Borough, London Bridge. The Ordinariate parish in the little village of Pembury in Kent has just celebrated the completion of the decoration of their church, and the building of a new hall. The Ordinariate in Torquay in Devon has made history by acquiring a former Methodist church – with the goodwill of the local Methodists who were keen that it continue to be used for Christian worship although they no longer required it for their own use. The Ordinariate has its own on-line magazine, The Portal, runs pilgrimages to Rome and to the Holy Land, and is making its presence felt in Britain in all sorts of ways both locally and nationally.

And in September the Ordinariate met at Westminster – a conference in Westminster Cathedral Hall addressed by Archbishop DiNoia of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and a concelebrated Mass in the Ordinariate Use in the Cathedral. This was the first time since the Reformation that an Archbishop from Rome had celebrated Mass using words from the Anglican patrimony.

The Ordinariate Use is not of course absolutely Anglican – it simply includes such prayers from the Anglican patrimony as are compatible with Catholic use. These include, for example, a form of the Prayer of Humble access before Communion “We do not presume to come…trusting in our own righteousness…”.

Hymns are part of the Anglican patrimony, and the September Mass at the Cathedral included one to Our Lady of Walsingham, popular with Anglicans on pilgrimages to that shrine since the 1920s.

Archbishop DiNoia concelebrated with Ordinariate priests from across Britain, and was steered through the liturgy by Fr Christopher Pearson, who is parish priest at London Bridge.

The afternoon conference saw a packed hall, and warm applause for the Archbishop as he gave a knowlegeable and encouraging address. Ordinariate clergy had travelled from, among other places, Devon, Coventry, Darlington, and from Scotland to be present. And there were Ordinariate members fro overseas, including two from Jakarta!