(Photo: Reuters/Andrew Winning)
Three more former Anglican priests have been ordained into the Roman Catholic Church at the weekend.
The latest priests to turn their backs on the Anglican Communion and join the specially established Catholic Ordinariate are Father David Elliott, of Reading, Berks, Father Jonathan Redvers Harris, of the Isle of Wight and Father Graham Smith, of Christchurch, Dorset.
Earlier this month The Christian Post reported how seven former Church of England clergy were ordained into the Ordinariate, as part of a series of ordinations taking place over Pentecost.
The latest group of former Anglican priests to complete their defection to the Catholic Ordinariate did so at a ceremony at Portsmouth Cathedral in south England, which saw about 250 congregants gather to celebrate the ordinations.
A number of those joining the new Ordinariate have said they were forced to take action following the Church of England’s increasing acceptance of same-sex blessings and gay clergy. Others have also cited the Church’s movement towards accepting women bishops as a reason to defect to the Catholic Church.
According to the BBC, one of the three, Father Elliott, resigned from his post as the Anglican vicar of Holy Trinity in Reading in April. He moved to the Catholic Church, taking 15 of his congregants with him.
Elliot has said he felt urged to take the action following Pope Benedict extending a “hand of friendship”.
The Catholic Ordinariate is a special body established by the pope as a place of refuge for Anglicans dissatisfied with their Church’s changing stance on certain issues.
In excess of 900 laity have already moved to the Catholic Church and have been waiting for their clergy to complete training for Catholic priesthood at a seminary in West London.
As the former Anglican clergy become ordained as Catholic priests, they will lead groups of former Anglican laity to branch off from the core Catholic congregations to worship as a separate Ordinariate group. The Vatican will soon publish a separate liturgy for these Ordinariate groups to follow.
According to The Times in London, Keith Newton, who heads up the Ordinariate, has explained that dozens more Church of England clergy are currently also considering their positions within the Anglican Church.
Newton told The Times, “Every week somebody writes or e-mails asking how they can join the Ordinariate. They are often people I have never heard of before.”
Explaining the risk facing those defecting to the Catholic Church, Newton commented: “For clergy it is a practical risk, meaning they abandon tied housing and a guaranteed stipend for a smaller income and uncertainty.”
Newton, himself defected and became a Roman Catholic priest in January this year. He and Andrew Burnham and John Broadhurst – all former Anglican bishops – were welcomed into the Roman Catholic Church during a ceremony at Westminster Cathedral in London.
The three made the move because they were "distressed" by the developments in the global Anglican Communion which they found to be "incompatible" with Christian tradition.
The Vatican announced in 2009 that it would introduce a new church structure that would allow former Anglicans to enter into "full communion" with the Catholic Church while preserving their Anglican traditions.
Pope Benedict made the provision in response to the numerous requests he received from Anglicans who were unhappy with the ordination of women and noncelibate gay bishops.