Fr Bernard has issued the following statement at 12noon today (February 10th):
You will have been aware since my pastoral note of December 18th 2011 to parishioners here in Abergavenny, that I have been exploring the possibility of joining the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Personal Ordinariates were established by Pope Benedict XVI from 2009 onwards, in response to requests from some Anglicans to open new ways for them to be received into the full Communion of the Catholic Church. Ordinariates provide a structure somewhat like a non-territorial Diocese for that purpose, enabling these Anglicans to be received into full Catholic Communion while retaining in their spiritual life, their worship and their fellowship together, many elements of their Anglican tradition and ‘patrimony’.
A group of people from across this part of South Wales have been meeting on a monthly basis since March 2012 to discuss this further. For those seriously considering joining the Ordinariate, a final stage of formation will now begin on Shrove Tuesday (February 12th). This will involve weekly meetings throughout Lent, as well as participation in Catholic parish life and the Mass.
I am among the small group of people intending to make this journey.
It is obvious from the nature of this final stage of exploration that participation in it cannot really be combined with exercising public ministry in and on behalf of the Church in Wales. Bishop Dominic and I have thus agreed that I will be on study leave from this day (10th February) until such time as my resignation from the post of Associate Vicar of these parishes takes effect.
May I apologise wholeheartedly for any difficulties or distress this may cause you. Regretfully, the nature of this exploration has meant that making an announcement earlier has not been possible, even if this must therefore come as a bit of a shock. This is so because announcing such a decision is in itself something that makes subsequent public ministry as an Anglican priest hard to imagine, so that unfortunately there can be no ‘period of grace’ between making the announcement and its taking effect (the beginning of my ‘study leave’, that is).
May I also repeat what I said in December 2011 – namely that my decision is no reflection on what goes on in the life of these parishes. I said then: ‘I would not in conscience be considering my position if I was not very seriously concerned about the direction the ‘ship’ Church in Wales as a whole is taking, but this is nothing to do with what happens here in these ‘cabins’.’ This holds true still: even though I have now concluded that Anglicanism is headed where I in conscience cannot go (and where Anglo-Catholics have always said it must not go), this does not mean I respect and love you, my sisters and brothers in the churches here, any less than before. As you know, I have always sought to live and serve among you as a ‘catholic’, committed to the fullness of the Faith. That has not changed. But I have now come to realise that there can be no true and full ‘catholicity’ without embracing true and full communion with the See of Peter.
All this does, of course, end my time of ministry among you rather abruptly – but it is, perhaps, worth bearing in mind that when I came in 2007, I came here in response to an advertisement offering the position for five years: I have served these parishes for nearly six years now and it is in the very nature of a position such as that of ‘Associate Vicar’ anyway to be somewhat less ‘permanent’ than that of an incumbent is.
I have assured Fr Mark, who has been unfailingly supportive and understanding of me throughout, that I will do my best to make the transition from my ministry here as easy and smooth as possible for you all. I am obviously happy to discuss this announcement with anyone who wishes to contact me about it. Also, there will, I hope, be an opportunity for a ‘proper’ farewell and reflection on my time here before I finally leave my post as Associate Vicar, and, since my decision does not mean we as a family intend to leave the geographical area of Abergavenny, I hope we will continue to ‘bump into one another’ in everyday-life in the future.
As ever, I leave you with my prayers and best wishes, and my thanks already for having been able to spend these last years sharing responsibility for your pastoral care,
Fr Bernard Sixtus The Sunday next before Lent 2013