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What is the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham?

The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is a specific ecclesiastical jurisdiction which juridically equivalent to a diocese and is overseen by its own Ordinary (see below) who may be a priest or bishop.

Unlike a diocese, whose membership is on a territorial basis, the membership of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is on a ‘personal’ basis. In other words, no matter where a member of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham lives, within the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales, they will in the first instance be under the ordinary ecclesial jurisdiction of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and not the diocese where they are territorially based.

The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is made up of laity, clergy and religious who were nurtured within the Anglican tradition. Following reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church, laity and religious become members of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham by enrolment in a register; with the ordination of priests and deacons, clergy are directly incardinated into (placed under the jurisdiction of) the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

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 Are members of the Ordinariate still Anglicans?

Members of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham are Catholics of the Latin Rite, within the full communion of the Catholic Church. By civil law they are known, as all Catholics in England and Wales are known, as ‘Roman Catholics’. However, their heritage and traditions mean that they are Catholics from the Anglican Tradition.

Members of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham are no longer part of any other communion (such as the Anglican Communion).

The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is not a distinct Ritual Church within the Catholic Church, but a diocese-like structure within the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales.

One of the principal aims of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus is “to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared”. Members of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham bring with them, into the full communion of the Catholic Church in all its diversity and richness of liturgical rites and traditions, aspects of their own Anglican patrimony and culture which are consonant with the Catholic Faith.

Anglican patrimony can be understood to be those elements of the Anglican tradition which have sustained and nurtured the faith of those in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. This includes spiritual writings, prayers, music, as well as those pastoral practices distinctive to the Anglican tradition which have sustained the faith and longing of many Anglican faithful for that very unity for which Christ prayed.

The members of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham bring gifts to the Catholic Church for mutual enrichment, in an authentic and visible form of full communion, between those baptised and nurtured in the Anglican tradition and the Catholic Church.

Why did Pope Benedict XVI publish Anglicanorum coetibus?

 The Holy Father stated, when he published Anglicanorum coetibus, that as ‘the successor of Peter, mandated by the Lord Jesus to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches, [he] could not fail to make available the means necessary to bring this holy desire to realization’.

This was in response to groups of Anglicans ‘repeatedly and insistently’ petitioning ‘to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately’.

During his address to the Catholic Bishops’ of England and Wales at St Mary’s College, Oscott, in September 2010, the Holy Father was keen to stress that the Apostolic Constitution “should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics”. He went on to state that “[Anglicanorum coetibus] helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all”.

In this way, the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is clearly intended to serve the wider and unchanging aim of the full visible unity between the Catholic Church and the members of the Anglican Communion.