So what does this mean?
It is important to realise that the Personal Ordinariates are jurisdictions in the Church, equivalent to dioceses, but whose membership is not based on location of residency (as in a diocese), but is a personal membership. The Ordinariates keep personal registers which list its members etc. But membership is strictly reserved for certain Catholics who fulfil the criteria set out in the founding documents (called Anglicanorum Coetibus).
Why only certain Catholics?
This is because the Ordinariates are set up for particular missionary objectives: particularly Unity and Evangelisation. They have been set up to provide a home from home for former Anglicans where they can continue to nurture and promote Anglican tradition and practice (that is compatible with Catholic teaching). And also to provide a place where a specialised catechesis can take place which takes into consideration the Anglican background of those Anglicans wishing to become Catholic.
Who may become members of the Ordinariate?
(1) Anglicans who wish to enter the full communion of the Catholic Church;
(2) Family members, who though cradle Catholics, are related to a member of the Ordinariate (spouse or child);
(3) A non-Christian who is catechised and receives the sacraments of Initiation within the juristiction of the Ordinariate (i.e. through the missionary work of an Ordinariate group).
So who else can now be members?
Pope Francis has now approved an amendment that also allows a baptised Catholic who fell away from the faith before receiving the other sacraments of Initiation (i.e. Eucharist and/or Confirmation) to become members of the Ordinariate if they have returned to the Faith through the evangelising mission of the Ordinariate.
What does this mean for the Ordinariates?
This of course affirms the place of the Ordinariates in the life of the Catholic Church, and also shows how its role in the New Evangelisation is valued by the Holy Father. In other words membership of the Ordinariate is the result of the fruit of Evangelisation, even when originally the person did not have an Anglican background and who might have been nominally Catholic. What is being valued here is the evangelising work of the Ordinariate.
I thought Pope Francis had doubts about the Ordinariates?
This is not the case. This is based on speculation around the time of the papal election when someone published without permission an off the cuff remark made by him when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Neither the Archbishop nor the person he was speaking to gave permission for the remark to be published. However now Pope Francis has approved this amendment it clearly shows beyond any doubt that the Ordinariates have a valued place in the Catholic Church, not least, in its mission for unity and evangelisation.
To read the documents that established the Ordinariates follow these links:
This is the official notice from the British Ordinariate website:
Pope Francis has approved a significant amendment to the Complementary Norms which govern the life of the Personal Ordinariates established under the auspices of Anglicanorum Coetibus.
On 31 May 2013, the Holy Father made a modification to Article 5 of the Norms, in order to make clear the contribution of the Personal Ordinariates in the work of the New Evangelisation.
This paragraph has been inserted into the Complementary Norms as Article 5 §2:
A person who has been baptised in the Catholic Church but who has not completed the Sacraments of Initiation, and subsequently returns to the faith and practice of the Church as a result of the evangelising mission of the Ordinariate, may be admitted to membership in the Ordinariate and receive the Sacrament of Confirmation or the Sacrament of the Eucharist or both.
This confirms the place of the Personal Ordinariates within the mission of the wider Catholic Church, not simply as a jurisdiction for those from the Anglican tradition, but as a contributor to the urgent work of the New Evangelisation.
As noted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, enrolment into a Personal Ordinariate remains linked to an objective criterion of incomplete initiation (i.e. baptism, eucharist, or confirmation are lacking), meaning that Catholics may not become members of a Personal Ordinariate ‘for purely subjective motives or personal preference’.