Australia’s new personal ordinariate will be a “homecoming” for former Anglicans joining the Catholic Church later this year.
The ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, under the patronage of St Augustine of Canterbury, will be established on June 15 by the Vatican.
Holy Cross church in Melbourne is the first church to be designated for the ordinariate.
Auxiliary Bishop Peter Elliot of Melbourne, project delegate for the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said there had been a “beautiful response” from Catholics welcoming new members to the Church.
“The journey hasn’t been easy for them,” he said.
“We must not be triumphalist about it; we must respect the sensibilities of other Anglicans who do not choose to make this step,” he said. “I would invite Catholic people to reach out and welcome these men and women who are choosing unity.”
Kevin Parsons, 85, and his wife, Judith, are two such people.
They belong to a small parish in suburban North Turramurra and made the decision to enter into communion with the Catholic Church after Pope Benedict’s announcement of Anglicanorum coetibus in 2009.
Mr Parsons said he had been dissatisfied with the “overwhelmingly evangelical” nature of the Anglican diocese of Sydney and canonical changes, including the ordination of women, in other dioceses.
“That’s the sort of trigger which set off many changes in the Anglican Communion,” he said. “The Anglican Communion has lost, in my opinion, much of the tradition on which it was based.”
He said it was a “pivotal point” that the personal ordinariate will allow former Anglicans to retain their own liturgy and traditions.
“I’ve been an Anglo-Catholic all my life, as far as I can remember, and it’s always been in the background for myself and many of my friends that, sooner or later, Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics should have an arrangement for some sort of union.”
It will be a “homecoming” and a “dawning of a new age” for Anglican Catholics, he said.
Fr Warren Wade, 78, a grandfather who was ordained 50 years ago, will lead at least 10 of the 15 members of the North Turramurra community into the ordinariate after they undergo instruction. He said that some Anglicans had been “praying for unity for a long time” and “their prayers have been answered”.
In the United States, Mgr Jeffrey Steenson, head of the US-based Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, welcomed the news of the Australian ordinariate.
Mgr Keith Newton, leader of the ordinariate in Britain, said: “This is great news for the Church in Australia, and for those from the Anglican tradition who are seeking to fulfil the goal of full visible unity with the Apostolic See, whilst maintaining essential elements of our Anglican tradition.
“A close bond already exists between the ordinariate here in Britain and our brothers and sisters of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter. It is my hope that similarly strong ties can be established with our Australian counterparts, especially as we look forward to the publication of a common liturgical use.
“The news that the Holy Father will establish a personal ordinariate in Australia, the third in the world, is truly wonderful, as it marks another important step toward Catholic unity.
“I offer my prayers, good wishes and encouragement to all those who will become part of the personal ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross,” he said.