Canada's bishops expected to welcome Anglicans

  • November 20, 2009
{mosimage}OTTAWA - Two leading Catholic prelates expect Canada’s bishops to respond positively to the new structure to welcome Anglicans into the Catholic Church.

“I think it will be well received,” said Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet of the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus that will establish personal ordinariates for groups of Anglicans wishing to become Catholic.

“It is a new reality, but it is officially affirmed and recognized and so it will be integrated without difficulties in the assembly of bishops at the national level.”

“What struck me about the apostolic constitution and the complementary norms was its subtlety in respecting the Anglican request and its simultaneous need to win over the local Roman Catholic ordinaries, inviting them in effect to collaborate and to be mutually enriched,” said Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., a member of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Permanent Council.

Prendergast used as an example Pope Benedict XVI’s wish that the two forms of the Mass — the Novus Ordo and the Usus antiquior — should enrich each other.

“I see the same approach in this initiative in ecumenical sensitivity,” the archbishop said, adding he believed personal ordinariates will be “received warmly” by his brother bishops in Canada. He said he hopes it meets the same welcome around the world.

The cardinal also remarked on the flexible approach towards priestly celibacy. The apostolic constitution takes into account the Anglican tradition of a married priesthood, he said, without using the integration of Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church as a “way of abandoning the Latin tradition of celibate clergy.”

The rule of celibacy has not changed, he said, though the apostolic constitution allows for possible exceptions. 

“I think people will understand that we are in a sort of transition and to some extent we would expect that the rule would be kept in the long term,” said Ouellet.

In the near term, though, there is a question of the needs of the Anglicans in the ordinariate to have pastors, he said.

“On the long term, in exceptional cases, there might be this possibility (of married priests) but as an exception.”

Ouellet is “impressed” by the constitution’s “model of integration” that allows for “acceptable differences,” maintains the Anglican liturgical tradition and a governing council with lay participation that recognizes the Anglican’s synodal experience.

“It should bring a new richness into the Catholic Church,” he said, describing the governing council model as “original as regards our own tradition.”

Prendergast, too, said he was struck by the “positive representation of Anglicanism’s ‘treasures’ and its generosity” towards Anglican leadership.

“Of course my views may not correspond to what Anglicans may feel,” he said. “I think the Holy See and Pope Benedict XVI have gone the ‘extra mile.’ The Holy Father is showing himself the promoter of Christian unity. Still each Anglican individual or congregation will need to pray and discern.”

Ouellet, who served as secretary to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity before becoming Quebec archbishop, believes the “flexible model” will stimulate the ecumenical movement.

“It was patient, it was insistent, humble, clear, firm and flexible at the same time and also open-ended for new membership,” the cardinal said. “It seems to me that this is a sign of the time.”

Ouellet agreed the model might work for other groups such as Lutherans who wish to become Catholic, but he did not see it directly affecting talks with Orthodox Churches.

But he pointed out the Eastern tradition developed separately, while the Anglican tradition developed within the confines of the Latin church.

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