Courage and ‘culture of communion’

February 12, 2013

HOUSTON — Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, called for a “culture of communion” and the continued path toward reunification in a weekend symposium for Catholics of Anglican tradition.

The Feb. 2 address was held at St. Mary Seminary in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, home of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The symposium marked the first anniversary of the Ordinariate, which was established for Anglicans in the United States and Canada who seek to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.

The Vatican official’s presence was significant in several respects: It marked Archbishop Müller’s first official visit to the United States since his appointment as prefect in July 2012. His message punctuated Vatican themes of Christian unity and the new evangelization. And he brought personal tidings from his longtime friend Pope Benedict XVI, who through the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus created the Ordinariates for Anglican reunification — the first in England and Wales in 2011, then in the United States and Canada in January 2012 and in Australia last June.

“Last year, Cardinal William Levada, my predecessor as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told the clergy of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham [in England] that Anglicanorum coetibus was very much ‘the Pope’s project,’” the archbishop said. “I have come to understand how true that is. You are very much in his thoughts and prayers.”

In attendance were dozens of parishioners from Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church, located a few minutes’ drive from St. Mary Seminary. The parish, established in 1984 under pastoral provision of the Blessed John Paul II, is the principal church of the U.S.-Canadian Ordinariate. Its Anglican Use liturgy, approved by the Holy See, underscores the Church’s respect for unity, tradition and the richness of diversity.

“Christ’s prayer ‘that they all might be one’ underscores the imperative of seeking full visible unity among Christians,” Archbishop Müller said. “The Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter serves this vision of unity by making it possible for groups of Anglicans to enter into communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. 

“It can certainly be said that, in creating this new structure, the Holy Father was responding to a movement of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that draws the disciples of the Lord together, fashioning them into the ecclesial Body of Christ.”

The prefect noted that the Ordinariate leadership has a “delicate but all-important task to both preserve the integrity of your parish communities and, at the same time, help your people integrate into the larger Catholic community,” thus creating a culture of communion — “… communion with the bishops of the Church, communion with the local diocese and parishes, communion with the Catholic faithful, and bonds of charity and friendship with those still separated from the Church.”

The Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter includes 30 priests (all former Anglicans who have completed an approved formation program) and about 1,600 people in 36 communities across the United States and Canada, most of whom became Catholic within the past year.

Archbishop Müller acknowledged that for some, the path to Catholicism has not been easy.

“I am well aware that many of you have experienced conflict and division in the years leading up to your decision to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. We must be reflective about these experiences, discerning carefully that they do not overly influence our attitudes toward ecclesiastical authority or Church life. 

“It takes a great deal of courage to be Catholic and so I say to you: Be courageous. 

“Be courageous in maintaining the vibrancy and orthodoxy of your faith in the Catholic Church. Your loyalty to the Holy Father and your commitment to seeking the truth has brought you this far and will sustain you, and will also serve as a powerful encouragement to those ‘born’ into the Catholic Church to rediscover her beauty and the consistency of her teaching. Your ‘youthful enthusiasm’ is a great gift. 

“Be courageous pioneers of communion, placing the diversity of your gifts at the service of the universal Church. The distinctiveness of your traditions and manner of prayer and worship are no obstacle to true unity in the Church. But courage in maintaining these traditions also recognizes that, for them to be a true enrichment to Catholic life, you will need to win the trust and confidence of the local Catholic community. A robust engagement with the pastoral and charitable initiatives of your Catholic and Anglican neighbors will not only redound to the glory of God and actually strengthen your Ordinariate parish, but provides an example of diversity grounded in the unity of faith which furthers the new evangelization.”

Other speakers included host Daniel Cardinal DiNardo; Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson, first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; Donald Cardinal Wuerl, archbishop of Washington and Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Ordinariate in the United States; Monsignor Steven Lopes, official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange, Calif., and ecclesiastical advisor for the pastoral provision which since 1980 has allowed married Episcopal priests to become ordained diocesan Catholic priests.