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The Record — Petertide 2010 page 10


A talk delivered to Forward in Faith Australia on understanding Pope Benedict’s Offer to Traditional Anglicans, given by Bishop Peter J Elliott, Auxiliary Bishop in the Catholic Diocese of Melbourne

Anglicans can no longer speak of ‘swimming the Tiber’. Pope Benedict XVI has built a noble bridge, a symbol chosen as the cover illustration for the Catholic Truth Society edition of his Constitution Anglicanorum

coetibus. Today I want to try to describe where that bridge leads.

I have already summed up the papal offer as ‘united in communion but not absorbed’, words which resonate with the ecumenical vision of the recent past, particularly the era of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey. Now ‘United in communion but not absorbed’ is realized in ‘a Personal Ordinariate for Anglicans who wish to enter full communion with the Catholic Church’, to use the Holy Father’s words in his Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus.

Defining a ‘Personal Ordinariate’

Anglicanorum coetibus establishes a distinct community for Anglicans who choose to return to unity with the Successor of St Peter. But it is not accurate to call this an ‘Anglican Rite Ordinariate’. A better expression would be an ‘Anglican Use Personal Ordinariate’,

that is, a structured community maintaining its own traditions, at the same time enjoying distinct liturgical privileges within the Roman Rite. To understand the proposed structure we may compare it with similar structures that already exist within the Catholic Church.

The Military Ordinariate

The proposed Anglican Use Ordinariate may be compared to the Military Ordinariate, set up in many countries, including Australia, the UK and the US. The Anglican Church of Australia has a similar structure. Anglicanorum coetibus refers to this structure in footnote 12.

A Military Ordinariate is kind of diocese covering a whole country but also ‘present’ in places outside the country where military personnel serve, such as Afghanistan or East Timor. The bishop of the armed forces exercises ordinary jurisdiction over military chaplains and Catholic members of the armed forces – wherever they may be. Therefore his ministry relates directly to people and is more personal than territorial.

However, the structure proposed in Anglicanorum coetibus for an Anglican Use Personal Ordinariate is closer to a territorial diocese. There could be several Ordinariates in one country, which is not the case with the military structure. Therefore to better understand an Anglican Use Ordinariate we look into the venerable ancient Eastern Rites within the Catholic Church, properly called the Eastern Catholic Churches.

One Church: East and West

These autonomous Churches are in communion with Rome, but their members are not ‘Roman Catholics’, that is, not Catholics of the Roman Rite. I now need to open up something essential that many Anglicans do not understand – that the Catholic Church is not a monolithic structure. She is a communion of Churches, led by

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