Ex-Anglican bishops ordained as Catholics

(From left) John Broadhurst, Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton
Image caption The former Anglican bishops were ordained together in Westminster Cathedral

Three former Anglican bishops, unhappy with the ordination of women, have been ordained as Roman Catholic priests at Westminster Cathedral.

Their ordination signals the inauguration of a special section of the Catholic Church for such Anglicans.

Keith Newton, Andrew Burnham and John Broadhurst will take up roles in the section known as the Ordinariate.

Father Newton has been chosen as leader of what is to be known as the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Walsingham in Norfolk is a pilgrimage centre for members of the Anglican church's catholic wing, and for Roman Catholics. It contains shrines of the Virgin Mary maintained by both Churches.

Other traditionalist Anglican clergy have spoken of their sadness and anger about the bishops' conversion.

Father Burnham, former bishop of Ebbsfleet, along with fellow "flying bishops" Father Newton - ex-bishop of Richborough - and Father Broadhurst - ex-bishop of Fulham - had all formerly supervised Church of England parishes that had opted out of contact with women priests.

Father Newton has estimated that about 50 more Anglican clergy might join the Roman Catholic church in the coming months - along with members of their congregations.

The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, leader of Catholics in England and Wales, carried out the ordination ceremony.

He acknowledged that the path the three had taken had involved "some sad parting of friends".

He also said the process of joining had involved "painful misunderstandings, conflict and uncertainty".

He added: "Many ordinations have taken place in this cathedral during the 100 years of its history. But none quite like this."

Archbishop Nichols said this latest ordination ceremony was "a unique occasion marking a new step in the life and history of the Catholic Church".

Like some other traditionalist clergy on the Catholic wing of the Church of England, the three former Anglican bishops opposed the introduction of women bishops, and do not believe sufficient provision was being made for traditionalists to avoid coming under the jurisdiction of women.

The Vatican will allow them to maintain a distinct religious identity and spiritual heritage within the Ordinariate.

'Basic principle'

Other Anglican traditionalists have warned that the bishops' departure will jeopardise the future of the Church of England as a broad Church able to balance its Protestant and Catholic traditions.

The former Bishop of Ballarat in Australia, the Right Reverend David Silk, has previously announced that he will also be joining the Roman Catholic Church.

Referring to Saturday's ceremony, he said: "The truth is the Church of England has decided to take its cue from the society it lives in, instead of its cue from Christ and carry the gospel that he preached to them - as we would see it.

"So, it may have to serve the whole community, but it doesn't have to tell the community what everybody wants to hear. Sometimes you've got to stick out for a basic principle and say, well, I'm sorry, that's the truth as I see it."

A spokesman from the Church of England declined to comment specifically on Saturday's ordinations but said the Church "wished anyone well who is on a journey of faith, as all of us are".

When asked if the new Ordinariate could result in large numbers of Anglican clergy and parishioners switching, he said: "The truth is, we just don't know how large those figures will be, or how small they will be.

"We have no indication they will be significant, but clearly we will be watching very closely to see."

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