Fr Z refers to Pope Benedict as the pope of Christian unity. It makes sense. What does unity look like? It looks like everybody accepting one faith, one Eucharist and one leader. The protestant idea of church unity is so far from this that they don't even see this as a unification. When somebody becomes Catholic the idea that church unity has increased does not even compute. But how else can unity happen? Jesus needs to draw all men to Himself. But visible unity is only going to happen through the visible Vicar of Christ.Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, will reveal on Friday the Vatican's plans to welcome the departing priests - including five bishops - who are expected to be received into the Catholic Church early in the new year.Hundreds of Anglican churchgoers will join them in the Ordinariate - a structure introduced by Pope Benedict XVI to provide refuge for those diaffected with the Church of England.The number of worshippers who leave the Church is predicted to double as the new arrangement finally begins to take shape.
The Anglican church often leads the way and other denominations follow. There have been many individual Anglican priests converting. This is being followed by whole groups of clergy coming together. I would not be surprised to see whole groups of Lutheran or Presbyterian clergy swim the Tiber in the next decade or so. Isn't God's grace amazing?
All the focus will be on the Anglicans. That these people are leaving the Anglican church because they don't like gays or women. The truth is much deeper than that. The hope is they are not motivated by an anger at their old church as much as they are by a love for Jesus. A realization that He is present in the Catholic church in ways He is not present in the Anglican church. Some of their motives will be mixed for sure but my prayer is they focus on where they are going and not what they are leaving.
I am even hopeful people like this might help transform the church in England. In many ways these converts will be better Catholics than 90% of England's Catholics. Like Bl Cardinal Newman and GK Chesterton they can become positive forces in the church.