Archbishop Bernard Longley says that an Ordinariate will contribute positively to ecumenical dialogue

Fears that the Ordinariate being established by the Holy See for Anglicans who wish to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church will undermine good ecumenical relations have been dismissed by the Archbishop of Birmingham, writes Peter Jennings.

 “Some have expressed fears that an Ordinariate may undermine good ecumenical relations but I believe those fears to be ill-founded,” said Archbishop Bernard Longley, the newly appointed chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Department of Dialogue and Unity, on Sunday, November 21.

 “During his visit Pope Benedict emphasised that his offer, in response to the petitions he had received, ‘should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics’.

 “The Holy Father is clearly encouraging the Catholic community to welcome and receive any groups who choose to follow this path in a way that respects and learns from the Anglican patrimony they will bring. 

“The Ordinariate is being formed so that the members of such groups may continue their Christian journey of faith in companionship with one another, under the spiritual and pastoral guidance of the priests who have served them within the Church of England, and at one with the Successor of Peter.

“I am committed with Bishop David Urquhart, the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, and Major Samuel Edgar, Divisional Commander of the Salvation Army, West Midlands, my fellow presidents of Birmingham Churches Together to doing as much as we can in common, in pursuit of Christian unity and at the service of inter-religious dialogue and co-operation.

“In the present economic situation there are great challenges for all sections of our society. Those in local government are having to take very difficult decisions and they will be conscious of the hardship and stress that many individuals and families are feeling at this time. 

“Our churches and faith communities have a significant part to play. It is important that we should not become preoccupied with our own internal affairs or remote from the pressing social needs that are around us and within our communities.

“The faith communities in Birmingham are often among the first to recognise emerging social needs within our local communities. Many of them have initiated and are involved in local projects that are making a practical contribution towards building a new culture of social responsibility,” said Archbishop Longley, the celebrant and preacher at the Civic Mass.

“With the support of the City Council the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group is engaged in a web-based faith mapping exercise.  Once it is finished this will not only identify places of worship but it will also indicate the contribution being made by local faith communities to a wide variety of social needs.” 

The Archbishop of Birmingham concluded his sermon: “With the season of Christmas so close I am delighted that the city’s Museum and Art Gallery is once again preparing the Nativity Trail to enable visitors to experience and appreciate the story at the heart of Christian faith through the beauty and the message of great works of art.

“This year the Nativity Trail will include the mosaic image of the Madonna and Child left by Pope Benedict nine weeks ago – on Sunday September 19 – as a gift to St Mary’s College at Oscott [the diocesan seminary] and willingly loaned so that it may be appreciated by all. It is another little example of the opportunities before us to work more closely together for the common good.”

The archbishop was speaking during the annual Civic Mass celebrated at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, on the Solemnity of Christ the King.