VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has established a special
structure for Anglicans who want to be in full communion with
the Roman Catholic Church while preserving aspects of their
Anglican spiritual and liturgical heritage, said U.S.
Cardinal William J. Levada.
The cardinal, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith, said a new apostolic constitution would establish
"personal ordinariates" -- similar to dioceses -- to oversee
the pastoral care of those who want to bring elements of
their Anglican identity into the Catholic Church with them.
Anglican priests who are married may be ordained Catholic
priests, but married Anglican bishops will not be able to
function as Catholic bishops in keeping with the
long-standing Catholic and Orthodox tradition of ordaining
only unmarried clergy as bishops, Cardinal Levada said.
The cardinal announced the new arrangement at a press
conference Oct. 20 at the Vatican. He said the pope's
apostolic constitution and norms for implementing it were
undergoing final revisions and would be published in a couple
In establishing the new jurisdictions, Pope Benedict is
responding to "many requests" submitted by individual
Anglicans and by Anglican groups -- including "20 to 30
bishops" -- asking to enter into full communion with the
Catholic Church, the cardinal said.
At the same time, Cardinal Levada said the new provision does
not weaken the commitment of the Vatican to promoting
Christian unity, but is a recognition that many Anglicans
share the Catholic faith and that Anglicans have a spiritual
and liturgical life worth preserving.
"It has always been the principal aim -- the principal aim --
to achieve the full, visible unity" of the Catholic Church
and Anglican Communion, the cardinal said.
But given recent changes within many Anglican provinces with
the ordination of women priests and bishops and the
acceptance of homosexuality in some areas, the prospect of
full unity "seemed to recede," he said.
The church recognizes and welcomes those Anglicans who fully
share the Catholic faith, agree with the Catholic view that
only men can be ordained priests and recognize the role of
the bishop of Rome -- the pope -- as the sign and guarantor
of church unity, he said.
At a press conference in London Oct. 20, Anglican Archbishop
Rowan Williams of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Communion,
and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of
the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, issued
a joint statement saying the new provisions are a recognition
of "the substantial overlap in faith, doctrine and
spirituality between the Catholic Church and the Anglican
"Without the dialogues of the past 40 years, this recognition
would not have been possible, nor would hopes for full
visible unity have been nurtured," the two leaders said.
Archbishop Williams told reporters that some members of the
Church of England are uneasy about positions their church is
taking, yet they would not want to become Roman Catholic.
"This will not resolve their challenges, and we in the Church
of England have to continue to engage with that," he said.
Cardinal Levada told reporters he met personally Oct. 19 with
Archbishop Williams, who had been told about the new
arrangement a month earlier.
In a letter to top Anglican leaders, Archbishop Williams
said, "In the light of recent discussions with senior
officials in the Vatican, I can say that this new possibility
is in no sense at all intended to undermine existing
relations between our two communions or to be an act of
proselytism or aggression. It is described as simply a
response to specific inquiries from certain Anglican groups
and individuals wishing to find their future within the Roman
"For those who wish to enter into full communion with the
Roman Catholic Church in the near future, this announcement
will clarify possible options, and we wish them God's
strength and guidance in their discernment," the Anglican
Cardinal Levada also said Cardinal Walter Kasper, president
of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, had
been informed about the pope's decision.
Asked Oct. 15 about the possible entrance of groups of former
Anglicans into the Catholic Church, Cardinal Kasper said, "We
are not fishing in the Anglican lake; proselytism is not the
policy of the Catholic Church. But if there are people who,
obeying their consciences, want to become Catholic, we cannot
shut the door."
U.S. Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, secretary of the
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments and former
undersecretary of the doctrinal congregation, spoke at the
press conference with Cardinal Levada.
"We have been praying for unity for 40 years. We find now
that the prayers we have had are being answered in a way that
we did not anticipate. So the Holy Spirit is at work here and
the Holy See cannot not respond," the archbishop said.
In 1993 the Catholic bishops of England and Wales asked the
Vatican not to implement special structures for former
Anglicans in their country, saying that the formation of
Anglican-identity Catholic parishes would only further
fracture the Christian community and would make the eventual
unity of the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion more
Participants in the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue also
have expressed concern in the past that the movement of
Catholics to the Anglican Communion is making the Anglican
Communion more liberal, while the movement of Anglicans to
the Catholic Church is making the Catholic community more
Archbishop Di Noia said, "The ecumenical movement has
changed. There has been a tremendous shift" in the prospects
for full, complete union.
Many Anglicans already consider themselves to be Catholic,
Archbishop Di Noia said, and the pope's new initiative will
make "explicit the bond that is already implicit."
In 1980 the Vatican made a special pastoral provision for
members of the Episcopal Church, the U.S. province of the
Anglican Communion, who wanted to become Catholic after the
Episcopalians began ordaining women priests. The provision
included permission for entire parishes of former
Episcopalians to use elements of their liturgy in the
Archbishop Di Noia said only a handful of parishes took
advantage of that special permission, and in 2003 the Vatican
approved "The Book of Divine Worship" for their liturgical
But he said many of those now seeking communion with Rome
wanted a stronger affirmation of their Anglican heritage and
a guarantee that it would continue to have a place in the
Catholic Church, which is why the pope ordered the
establishment of personal ordinariates.
The number of ordinariates and their headquarters will be
determined by the number of Anglicans seeking full communion,
Cardinal Levada said. The head of each ordinariate will be a
former Anglican clergyman, who will not necessarily be
ordained a Catholic bishop.
New priests for the ordinariates will study in seminaries
with other Catholic seminarians, but an ordinariate can
"establish a house of formation to address the particular
needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony," Cardinal
In general, married Anglican priests and bishops who become
Catholic will be ordained Catholic priests, as will married
Anglican seminarians, he said.
But an unmarried man ordained a Catholic priest will not be
permitted to marry, and the pope's apostolic constitution
will state a clear preference for a celibate clergy,
Archbishop Di Noia said.
Cardinal Levada told reporters that he realizes "for some
people it seems to be a problem" that the Vatican is allowing
married former Anglicans to be ordained Catholic priests, but
will not allow Catholic priests who have left to marry to
return to ministry.
"They are two different circumstances," the cardinal said.
Respecting "the authenticity of the call to service" of
Anglican clergy who were married when they came to the
decision to become Catholic is different from the case of "a
Catholic who knowingly commits to a celibate priesthood and
then decides for different reasons to leave the priesthood
for married life."
"I do not think it is an insurmountable problem," Cardinal
Levada said, adding that the church needs to educate
Catholics that the dispensation for former Anglican clergy is
an exception and that the church continues to uphold the
virtue of celibacy.