From The Telegraph, January 1, 2011:
Priests and worshippers from around 20 Church of England parishes converted to Catholicism on Saturday at a ceremony in Westminster Cathedral.
Three former bishops were among those confirmed at the service, which saw the first wave of Anglicans defecting to Rome to join the Ordinariate.
The Pope introduced the structure in 2009 to welcome disillusioned Anglicans into the Catholic fold after secret meetings were held at the Vatican with Church of England bishops, as The Sunday Telegraph revealed a year earlier.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, admitted the move had put him in “an awkward position”, but more recently he said he respected the decisions of those who decided to leave.
While around 50 clergy are expected to defect to the Catholic Church over the coming months, it has been predicted that thousands of traditionalist worshippers will join the exodus, particularly if they are given no concessions once women are made bishops.
Opposition to women bishops was one of the main reasons for the priests’ resignations from the Church of England, said Bishop Alan Hopes, the Catholic bishop who has overseen their welcome into the Ordinariate.
More importantly, he added, “most of them have been journeying, seeking the fullness of truth, and they found it in the Catholic Church”.
The former bishops of Fulham, Ebbsfleet and Richborough, John Broadhurst, Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton respectively, were applauded after they received holy communion before a packed congregation at the cathedral yesterday.
They have been key to orchestrating the exodus from the Church of England and advocating the Ordinariate, which they described as an “answer to their prayers”.
Fr Broadhurst has been particularly vocal in criticising the Church, accusing it of breaking promises to opponents of women bishops and describing it as “vicious” and “fascist”.
Two of the bishops’ wives were also confirmed as Catholics yesterday, along with three former Anglican nuns who were forced to take refuge in a Catholic convent after being told to leave their house at Walsingham Abbey.
Their departure devastated the community in Walsingham, leaving four older nuns to run the priory while the younger ones faced a period of uncertainty.
One of the nuns, Sister Wendy Renata, said she felt “fantastic” after formally being welcomed into the Catholic Church.
“I’ve wanted to do it for years. I’ve finally done it,” she said.
In the next few weeks, the next groups of clergy and worshippers are set to be received into the Catholic Church, which is due to announce the precise timetable for the launch of the Ordinariate this month.
The confirmations at yesterday’s service were the first step to its establishment in this country. All of the clergy who have resigned from the Church of England now have to be re-ordained as the Catholic Church does not recognise Anglican orders.
It is expected that as many as 50 clergy will be ordained by Easter as the new structure begins to take shape, but there are likely to be many disputes in parishes torn over whether to remain in the Church of England.
The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, said in November that he did not feel “guilty” that some Anglican parishes would be left without vicars.
He said the Catholic Church would provide £250,000 in start-up funding for the Ordinariate and look to raise more money from donations and sponsors to cover running costs.
Archbishop Williams has expressed regret at the resignations of the clergy and warned that there will be challenges as they set up their new churches.
“I think the challenge will come in working out shared use of churches, of how we as Anglicans 'recommend’ people and also of course there will be some parishes without priests - so we have a practical challenge here and there,” he said.
Earlier in the process, the Vatican published its “apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus”, allowing Anglican clergy to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while maintaining aspects of their spiritual heritage.
While Catholic priests are not permitted to marry, there are a small number of former Anglican bishops with wives, who joined the Catholic clergy post the mid-90s.
"They were given disciplinary sanction from clerical celibacy in order to be ordained as a Catholic priest,” Bishop Hopes said.
Commenting on how the Anglican Archbishop might feel about the arrangement, Bishop Hopes said he understood he would be feeling unhappy.
“But I know too that he understands that we are all on a journey of faith, and sometimes our paths take standard routes.
“And if you truly believe that you have found fullness of truth in the Catholic Church, there is nothing you can do about it.
“You have to become a Catholic.”
A former Anglican convert himself, Bishop Hopes was received into the Catholic Church in 1994.