My incoming email this morning brings an interesting item issued by the Holy See having to do with the union between Catholicism and Anglicanism. This union is taking significant steps forward and giving us cause for greater hope for the healing of the rift that began nearly five hundred years ago when King Henry VIII of England forced this tragic separation of the Catholic Church in England and its possessions from the Catholic Church and its allegiance to the Pope.
In recent years, more and more Anglicans and Episcopalians have been interested in returning to the unity of the two religious bodies, and the two churches have been working hard to achieve that goal. This morning’s item in the Vatican New service quotes from a joint statement issued by Cardinal Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, Dominican, of the Congregation for Worship and the Sacraments. It speaks of how our Holy Father is permitting the establishment of personal dioceses within the Catholic Church for those rejoining us from the Anglican/Episcopalian communion. This means that these people will be able to become members of what we ordinarily call dioceses or archdioceses, but may continue to use the Book of Common Prayer, which is the basis of Anglican/Episcopalian worship, and they will be governed, church-wise, by bishops or archbishops who are themselves returning to full union with Rome from the Anglican/Episcopalian church. Once these brothers and sisters of ours in our faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ have accepted the authority of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, as the Vicar of Christ and the legitimate successor of Saint Peter, the first Pope, then Pope Benedict wants to do everything possible to make them feel welcome and at home in their own milieu—the Anglican Usage, as it’s called, within Catholicism.
This Anglican Usage already exists; we have Our Lady of Walsingham parish here in Houston as a parish of that usage. But the difference is that now, they will have their own bishops and archbishops who come into full communion from an Anglican/Episcopal background.
I remember once, some years ago, concelebrating Mass at the Anglican Usage parish of Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio. The wife of the priest with whom I concelebrated Mass was seated on the front pew, and two of his young sons were our acolytes. That was certainly a new experience for me! Please God, there will be more and more of that! Today’s news item points out that this new development is being welcomed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican/Episcopalian church, since it clears up some uncertainties in the relationship of our two groups.
Let us pray through the intercession of the English martyrs, especially Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, that progress will continue in this path by the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that there may be, as Jesus prayed in the gospel, “One flock and one shepherd.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.