In November 2009, Pope Benedict XVI issued the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, stating: “In recent times the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately. The Apostolic See has responded favourably to such petitions. Indeed, the successor of Peter, mandated by the Lord Jesus to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches, could not fail to make available the means necessary to bring this holy desire to realization”.
As a direct result of this offer, three serving bishops of the Church of England – the Right Reverend John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham; the Right Reverend Andrew Burnham, Bishop of Ebbsfleet; the Right Reverend Keith Newton, Bishop of Richborough – made public their intention to join the Personal Ordinariate when it was established. On 1 January 2011 these three men, together with two of their wives and three former sisters of the Society of St Margaret in Walsingham, were received into the full communion of the Catholic Church by the Right Reverend Alan Hopes, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, in Westminster Cathedral.
On 13 January 2011, the three former Anglican bishops were ordained to the diaconate in the chapel of Allen Hall Seminary, Chelsea, by Bishop Hopes, and to the sacred priesthood by Archbishop Vincent Nichols on Saturday 15 January 2011.
The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was erected by decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the same day, and the then Fr Keith Newton was appointed by the Holy Father as its’ first Ordinary.
On Ash Wednesday 2011, around 900 laity and clergy of the Church of England ceased public ministry in the Anglican Communion and began a forty day period of preparation to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
In March 2011, the Holy Father elevated Fr John Broadhurst and Fr Andrew Burnham to the rank of Prelate of Honour, and Fr Keith Newton to the rank of Protonotary Apostolic.
During Holy Week 2011, almost 1000 men, women and young people were received into the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
After Easter the former Anglican clergy were ordained to the diaconate and then, around Pentecost 2011, they were ordained to the sacred priesthood.
This new structure within the Catholic Church is a generous and pioneering attempt to heal the wounds of sin and division between Anglicans and Catholics. The Holy Father, speaking at St Mary’s College, Oscott, at the end of his 2010 State Visit to the United Kingdom, said the Ordinariate “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”.