Pope Benedict XVI has placed the commitment to the full communion of the Church at the forefront of his Papacy. This is evident in his love, respect and repeated overtures toward our Orthodox brethren, whom we recognize as a Church and whose priesthood and Sacraments we also recognize. However, this love is also evident in his outreach to the separated Christians of the Reformation communities of the West. I am not alone in calling Pope Benedict XVI the Pope of Christian Unity.
KANSAS CITY, MO (Catholic Online) - On Thursday I received an E mail from Archbishop Irl Gladfelter, the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church entitled, "New Information About The Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church." Readers of my articles on Catholic Online know I have written extensively concerning the Anglican Ordinariate. I mentioned this group of sincere Christians who desire full communion with the Catholic Church on July of 2010 in a piece entitled "Are Lutherans Next? Lutherans Seek Full Communion with Catholic Church".
In that article I wrote: "I am in a dialogue with Archbishop Irl A. Gladfelter, CSP, the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church, a group of Lutherans who have embraced the Catholic Catechism and the teaching of the Magisterium. They are humbly knocking at the door of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith seeking a way into full communion. . .Some have said that their smallness and placement on "the fringes" of the Lutheran community makes them less representative. I recall that those were the same comments made about the "Traditional Anglican Communion" in their early efforts. They became the prophetic vehicle the Holy Spirit used to open up an historic breakthrough."
In a lengthy interview the Archbishop shared the journey of this group and their overture to Rome. I decided to write little about them to protect their effort. However, I did write: "To be Catholic is to enter into the prayer of Jesus for the Unity of His Church. In Pope Benedict XVI's first Papal message he signaled his commitment to this unity:
"Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel encouraged to strive for the full unity for which Christ expressed so ardent a hope in the Upper Room. The Successor of Peter knows that he must make himself especially responsible for his Divine Master's supreme aspiration. Indeed, he is entrusted with the task of strengthening his brethren (cf. Lk 22: 32). With full awareness, therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome which Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current Successor takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty."
Pope Benedict XVI has placed the commitment to the full communion of the Church at the forefront of his Papacy. This is evident in his love, respect and repeated overtures toward our Orthodox brethren, whom we recognize as a Church and whose priesthood and Sacraments we also recognize. However, this love is also evident in his outreach to the separated Christians of the Reformation communities of the West. History is demonstrating that this Pope is making some very prophetic overtures toward that end. I am not alone in calling Pope Benedict XVI the Pope of Christian Unity.
On January 14, 2011,upon the Holy Father's return from his apostolic visit to the United Kingdom where he raised Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman to the altar, I wrote "Prophetic Gesture? First Priests of the Anglican Ordinariate to be Ordained." In it I wrote: "Toward the end of his historic visit to the United Kingdom where he presided over the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman, an Anglican convert who prayed for the reunion of the Anglican communion with Rome, Pope Benedict XVI gathered with all of the Bishops. At the end of the address he spoke these words:
"I asked you to be generous in implementing the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. This should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all. Let us continue to pray and work unceasingly in order to hasten the joyful day when that goal can be accomplished."
When I read the Archbishops letter Thursday I was moved to prayer and rejoicing! Let me share some excerpts:
"Good Afternoon, Deacon Fournier:
"On February 21, 2011, it became public that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has invited the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church (ALCC) to enter the Catholic Church "through the provisions of Anglicanorum coetibus," and that the ALCC has officially and unconditionally accepted their invitation. I am writing to inform you that this information is correct.
"For documentation, attached are copies of the ALCC's petition, the official letter Of instruction from the CDF signed by Luis Ladaria, Secretary of the CDF; letters from Cardinal Kasper his receipt of the ALCC's petition and Archbishop Ladaria acknowledging the CDF'sreceipt of the ALCC's petition; and the ALCC's official written unconditional acceptance of the CDF's instruction, requesting entrance into the Catholic Church "through the provisions of Anglicanorum coetibus" as soon as possible.
"...Lest anyone get the idea that the ALCC's entry into the Catholic Church "through the provisions of Anglicanorum coetibus" indicates a change in the nature of the American Ordinatiate, please note the following, which the ALCC's Bishop of Florida, + Edward Steele, wrote on The Anglo-Catholic: "the letter . . . which we received in October from the CDF was (as we and all who have read it understand it) a response to our petition of May 2009 and nothing more. We do not assume nor speculate that our response from the CDF in any way changes the original intention of Anglicanorum coetibus. While we humbly and joyfully look forward to being part of the ordinariate, we feel that using the letter for any type of reinterpretation of the Holy Father's intentions is unwise."
I read a report on this good news from Fr. Christopher Phillips entitled "Our Family is Growing" on The Anglo-Catholic, a wonderful site edited by Christian Campbell which covers all of the news of the growing Anglican Ordinariate. However, I waited until it was confirmed by Archbishop Irl before writing this article. Both the Archbishop and I are traveling this weekend. So, I have scheduled an interview with him next week.
I communicated an assurance of our prayer to him and wanted to keep our readers up to date concerning this news. In the comments following Fr Phillips article on the Anglo-Catholic, the Archbishop answers many of the questions our readers might ask about the Anglo-Catholic Lutheran Church. Here is a response to the first question concerning the size of the group which he gave me permission to use:
"I am the Metropolitan of the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic church. As reported to the editors of the "Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches - 2011," world-wide, the ALCC has (in round numbers) 11,000 baptized members world-wide. In the U.S. there are between 4,000 and 5,000 baptized members. The majority both overseas and in the U.S. are Sudanese (from the newly independent nation of South Sudan.) The ALCC has a parish of approximately 300 baptized members in a parish in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum; and a parish in Berlin, Germany.
"It is difficult to estimate the size of an average ALCC parish. Some are larger than others. As is the case in many Continuing Anglican Churches, while some parishes are growing faster than others, by American standards, most would be considered on the small side.
"I would point out, however, that the ALCC does not admit anyone to membership who does not want to be fully Roman Catholic, and all are catechized using the "Catechism of the Catholic Church," the "Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church" and other books and resources used in Catholic RCIA classes.
"As for our clergy, all are required to sign and abide by an enhanced version of the Mandatum, which, in the form of a witnessed, dated, legally enforceable contract binds then "not to teach, preach, write, or publish anything contrary to the [Roman Catholic] Magisterium. This is enforced.
"I am sure that these firm doctrinal policies have affected our growth, but the decision was made years ago that the ALCC would rather remain small than risk developing a dissenting, "Protestant-oriented" faction which would cause difficulties when we enter the Catholic Church, which has always been our ecumenical goal."
We are living in an extraordinary time in Church history. Could it be that the divisions which characterized the Second Millennium of Church history will find their healing in this Third Millennium as the Holy Spirit, working through the Successor of Peter, moves the Church toward a model of full communion which restores both orthodoxy and orthopraxy within legitimate diversity? Let us continue to join in the Prayer of Jesus, "May they be One" (John 17:21)
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