Traditional Anglican leader expects 150 clergy to become Catholic

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Archbishop John Hepworth

The Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion has announced that more than 150 of the group's clergy are actively seeking to reunite with the Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVI's Anglican Ordinariate proposal.

“This is a moment to reflect on the prophetic wisdom of Pope Benedict,” wrote Primate John Hepworth, who heads up a group of 15 traditional Anglican provinces around the world. “It is a moment to thank him for his daring trust that Anglicans would respond. It is a time to intensify our prayers for him.”

In his pastoral statement, he noted some “exquisite difficulties” that had previously slowed implementation of “Anglicanorum Coetibus,” the Pope's November 2009 apostolic constitution which allows Anglican groups to petition the Holy See for large-scale reunion. However, the primate reported feeling “much more at ease with the implementation process” one year later.

In 1992, the local churches of the Traditional Anglican Communion separated from the global Anglican Communion, primarily over the issue of female ordination. Primate Hepworth indicated in his letter that the subsequent direction of the mainstream Anglican Communion had borne out their decision to separate, as well as many traditional Anglican clergy and bishops' decision to seek full communion with Rome.

Traditional Anglican Communion bishops in two countries – Canada and the United States – have already joined in preparations for reunion, about which Primate Hepworth said announcements would “soon be forthcoming.” In the United States, 51 priests and five bishops of the communion are seeking to join the ordinariate, along with three bishops and 43 of their clergy in Canada.

“In our own Communion,” he continued, “four further Provinces have already passed resolutions seeking the formation of an Ordinariate.”

These include England, where 24 Traditional Anglican Communion clergy “have indicated their firm intention to seek ordination and membership of the English Ordinariate.” Five bishops of the Church of England also announced in November that they were leaving the Church of England to join the country's first ordinariate, or jurisdiction.

Many Anglican groups' own ordination rites, like those of the mainstream Anglican Communion, are not recognized as valid, meaning that these groups' clergy must be ordained to serve as Catholic priests.

Bishop Robert Mercer, a retired Anglican bishop now belonging to the English branch of the Traditional Anglican Communion, announced his intention to join the English Ordinariate along with the other five departing Anglican leaders. Although many of the departing Anglican bishops can only serve as priests in the ordinariates, they may be able to maintain leadership roles.

In Primate Hepworth's country of Australia, at least 28 priests and three bishops intend to become Catholic under the terms of the apostolic constitution. One bishop in Puerto Rico and another in Central America have also requested the formation of Anglican ordinariates in these regions.

“I have been assured that Episcopal Delegates for a number of further regions will be named,” the primate announced, explaining that he would be visiting Japan, Latin America, India and Africa to discuss reunion with bishops and clergy there.

Not all of the clergy and laypersons of the traditional communion, which encompasses 15 provinces throughout the world, are currently planning to become Catholic through the ordinariate system. However, Primate Hepworth affirmed in his letter that full communion with the Catholic Church “is a matter of policy for the College of Bishops (of the Traditional Anglican Communion), as is the acceptance of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

Nevertheless, he called for charity to prevail between those clergy and laypersons who would be seeking to become Catholic in the immediate future, and those who would not. “It is of utmost importance that those who are ready now should hold those who are not yet ready in the deepest bonds of prayer and Christian closeness. And vice versa.”

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