AN “Ordinariate of Postulants” has been set up by the diocese of Peru in the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone to host a growing number of Roman Catholic priests who are keen to join the Anglican Church.
In contrast to the situation in England, where three former bishops recently joined the Ordinariate for former Anglicans established by Rome, clerics are making the reverse journey in South America.
The Bishop of Peru, the Rt Revd William Godfrey, said that, so far, about ten RC priests had joined the new group to explore the possibility of switching denominations. Some may bring congregations with them.
About half of them are from churches that have become independent from the RC Church, often because the priests have got married.
Bishop Godfrey said that he had also received requests from RC clergy in Uruguay, Ecuador, and Argentina, to join the Anglican Church.
He said that it was not entirely new for Roman Catholics to make this journey, as “the Anglican Church in Latin America would not exist if it wasn’t for ex-Roman Catholics”, but priests were now leaving on a larger scale.
He said that many of these priests were looking for stability in their ministry, and that the Postulate was “some sort of body where these people can draw close to the Anglican Church and experience its liturgical and pastoral tradition and theology, before taking the final step of being received. It provides a buffer zone in which we can prepare to receive them.”
Bishop Godfrey believes that some priests may have been encouraged by Pope Benedict XVI’s positive words about Anglicanism when setting up the Ordinariate, when he was “extraordinarily positive” about the Anglican tradition.
He said that the new body was not meant to be “provocative” towards Roman Catholicism; there was in fact “a lot of respect towards the Pope” in the region. There is no financial motivation for clerics to move to the Anglican Church, as there is no guarantee of a stipend when they join the diocese of Peru.
The diocese currently has 35 clerics, an increase from just four in the late 1990s. It has two seminaries in Lima and Arequipa. RC orders are recognised by Anglicans.
The diocese is currently working out how it will deal with bishops from independent RC churches who wish to become Anglicans.