A canon prays in a Westminster Cathedral chapel. Three Anglican bishops were received into the Catholic Church during Mass at this cathedral. CNS file photo

LONDON – Three former Anglican bishops were received into the Catholic Church just hours after they officially gave up their ministries in the Church of England.

Bishops Andrew Burnham of Ebbsfleet, John Broadhurst of Fulham and Keith Newton of Richborough will be soon ordained as priests for a special Anglican ordinariate that will be set up in England later in January.

Their resignations took effect at midnight on Dec 31, and they were received into the Catholic Church the afternoon of Jan 1 during a Mass in London’s Westminster Cathedral.

They will be ordained as Catholic deacons at Allen Hall seminary, London, on Jan 13, then as priests at a ceremony in the cathedral on Jan 15. They will be incardinated into the English ordinariate, similar to a military diocese, which is expected to be formed by papal decree the second week of January, when Pope Benedict XVI is also expected to appoint its leader.

The ordinariate will be the first to be created since the pope issued an apostolic constitution on Nov 4, 2009, to allow group reception of Anglicans into the Catholic Church.

The ordinariate permits former Anglicans to retain much of their patrimony and liturgical practices, such as married priests.

Also received into the Church at the Jan 1 Mass were Ms Judi Broadhurst, wife of the former bishop of Fulham, and Ms Gill Newton, wife of the former bishop of Richborough.

Three former Anglican nuns who had left the Sisters of St. Margaret to join the ordinariate, were also received into the Church, along with a number of former lay Anglicans.

The Mass was celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Alan Hopes of Westminster, the most senior former Anglican priest in the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

One witness, Fr Sean Finnegan, a Catholic priest, wrote on his blog later that the former bishops wore suits and ties. After they were received into the faith they were given the Sacrament of Confirmation and “returned to their places to gentle applause”.

The three former bishops were among five who in November declared their intention to join the ordinariate. The other two will be ordained Catholic priests by Lent.

Discussions to form possible personal ordinariates in the United States, Canada and Australia are also in progress. – CNS