The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has spoken to the three leaders – or ordinaries - of the personal ordinariates of the delicacy and importance of their task "in these first key years" in the ordinariates' existence.
Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller told the ordinaries that, because the unity of the Church was the ostensible reason for the establishment of the ordinariates, effective communion would be a principal measure against which ordinariate communities would be judged. "You will come under scrutiny from many quarters", he said. All eyes are upon you"!
Cardinal Müller's comments were made to the three ordinaries – Mgr Keith Newton of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the UK, Mgr Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter in the United States and Mgr Harry Entwistle, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia – when they visited him in Rome [on 18 February] in the days running up to his being created a Cardinal.
The ordinariates are the structures, akin to dioceses, which allow former Anglicans to enter the full communion of the Catholic Church, bringing with them much of their Anglican heritage.
Cardinal Müller said: "Anglicans will be interested in how well you are able to make a home in the Catholic Church that is more than just assimilation, while Catholics will want to know that you are here to stay, strengthening our ecclesial cohesion rather than setting yourselves apart as another divisive grouping within the Church...It is your delicate, but all-important task both to preserve the integrity and distinctiveness of your parish communities and, at the same time, help your people integrate into the larger Catholic community".
Turning his attention to the importance of the sacred liturgy as the expression of communion, Cardinal Müller said that the ordinaries' role in this regard was critical. "By ensuring that the sacred liturgy is celebrated worthily and well, you further the communion of the Church by drawing people into the worship of God who is communio". He said that the sacred liturgy was also the "privileged place" for encountering Anglican patrimony, which was how ordinariate parishes and communities distinguished themselves, bearing witness to the faith in the diversity of its expression.
"In this sense, the celebration according to the approved Divine Worship [or Ordinariate Use] texts is both essential to the formation of the identity of the ordinariate as well as being a tool for evangelisation", Cardinal Müller said.
The Prefect went on to issue a word of warning about the potential problems caused by the "new media", particularly through blogs. He said that some of the ordinariate clergy and faithful wrote blogs, which, while being a helpful tool of evangelisation, could also "express un-reflected speech lacking in charity". The image of the ordinariate was not helped by this, he said, and it fell to the ordinaries to exercise vigilance over these blogs and, if necessary, to intervene.
Cardinal Müller said that, in responding to the Holy Father's invitation to serve as Ordinary, each of the three men had demonstrated great courage and deep faith and that their journey had called for considerable personal sacrifice. "I want you to know that I have spoken to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, about the ordinariates and the particular gift they are to the Church. The Holy Father is following the development of the ordinariates with great interest", he said.
The ordinaries' visit to Rome – three years after the first of the three ordinariates was established – was the first time three of them had all met together.
NOTE: The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was set up by Benedict XVI in 2011 in response to requests from Anglicans who felt that the Anglican Church was moving further way from making unity with Rome possible. Nearly 90 former Anglican clergy have since been ordained as Catholic priests under its jurisdiction and there are some 40 Ordinariate groups around the country. The ordinariates in the United States and Australia followed it in 2012.