By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Although leaders of the Anglican Church in America have formally sought to join the Catholic Church, “we still have a number of questions” about how it would work, said the traditionalist denomination’s spokesman.
“What we Anglicans are looking for is full sacramental unity,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Monroe, Anglican Church in America communications director, in a March 9 telephone interview with Catholic News Service from Conway, N.H., where he is vicar of a parish. The priest also serves as a maritime chaplain for the denomination.
“For Anglicans, what is important is that we maintain our rites,” Rev. Monroe said. “It is important to us that we maintain our practices, our scriptural focus.”
The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America voted for their parishes to seek entry into the Catholic Church as a group under the guidelines established in Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus” (“Groups of Anglicans”), said a March 3 statement.
“It’s a starting point for all of us, which is very important,” Rev. Monroe said. “We are now anticipating further conversations, which we are working our way to. The Roman Catholic Church needs a process just like we did.”
“There’s a great desire on our part to seek the unity which the Lord intended for us,” Rev. Monroe added. “Now it becomes a bureaucratic process,” he said with a laugh.
The pope’s constitution was published Nov. 9, along with specific norms governing the establishment and governance of “personal ordinariates,” structures similar to dioceses, for former Anglicans who become Catholic.
The Anglican Church in America is part of the Traditional Anglican Communion, formed by those who disagreed with the decision of the Episcopal Church — the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion — to change its prayer books and liturgies and to ordain women as priests.
Rev. Monroe said the separation from the Episcopal Church began in the early 1970s.
The Anglican Church in America has about 100 congregations, with one of its dioceses extending to the Caribbean and South America.
There are 44 national churches in the Traditional Anglican Communion, with its primatial see headed by Archbishop John Hepworth in Adelaide, Australia. Compared to the Anglican Communion’s 90 million members worldwide, the Traditional Anglican group is tiny. Rev. Monroe put the figure at between 500,000 and 1 million.
This is why the Anglican Church in America seeks the kind of “ordinariate” that some already in communion with the Catholic Church currently enjoy, according to Rev. Monroe.
Churches under the personal ordinariate can retain their Anglican character and much of their liturgy and practices — including married priests — while being in communion with the Catholic Church.
Noting that his denomination has been in dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church for about 30 years, he noted that for much of that time Pope John Paul II headed the church. “And I believe the conversations were still going on between Archbishop Hepworth and then-Cardinal (Josef) Ratzinger,” Rev. Monroe said. “Things began to perk up a bit after the cardinal became the new pope.”
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