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Mirfield extends a pastoral hand to ex-brother: The Church of England Newspaper, July 1, 2012 p 6. July 5, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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Mgr Mercer (third from the left) following his reception into the Catholic Church earlier this year. Photo: Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

Pope Benedict XVI has honoured three former Anglican bishops now serving as priests in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.  Edwin Barnes, the Bishop of Richborough from 1995 to 2002, David Silk, the Bishop of Ballarat from 1994 to 2003, and Robert Mercer, the Bishop of Matabeleland from 1977 to 1989 were named Chaplain of His Holiness and will bear the title Monsignor, the website of the ordinariate announced last week.

The head of the ordinariate, Mgr. Keith Newton stated the pope had “in every possible way” sought to “recognise the fruitful Anglican ministry which we undertook before entering the Catholic Church; this honour for these three distinguished men is a further sign of our Holy Father’s love and warmth toward this project.”

However, anonymous complaints have been lodged by members of the Church of England over what they believe is special treatment given to Mgr. Mercer by the Anglican religious order, the Community of the Resurrection.

A member of the Community of the Resurrection for the past 49 years, Mgr. Mercer lives rent-free in accommodation owned by the Community in Worthing. “CR Brothers are meant to have no assets of their own and, if they are of pensionable age, their pensions are made over to the Community. The financial arrangements for Mercer appear questionable, particularly as Mercer is sure to be receiving expenses from the Catholic Church,” one protestor wrote to The Church of England Newspaper.

In a statement released on its website, the Superior of the Community of the Resurrection, Fr George Guiver, stated that although Fr. Mercer had been received by the Catholic Church, he remained a member of the CR.

“Some people are puzzled by this fact, and a bit of background might help,” he wrote, noting that after his election as Bishop of Matabeleland in 1976, Mgr. Mercer ceased to be a member of the chapter and became a “prelate brother”.

When he left the Anglican Communion in 1988 over the ordination of women to join another Anglican body, the CR “decided Robert should remain a member of the Community, continuing in the status of Prelate Brother.  It was felt by a majority that the ties of brotherhood were stronger than our theological differences, and that wherever possible on the question of the unity of the Church it was important not to close doors wherever they could remain open.”

“Now in 2012 he has been received into the Ordinariate and re-ordained as a priest,” Fr. Guiver said, and after discussions with the community’s Visitor the CR has decided that “the same arrangement should remain in place as hitherto as a pastoral arrangement.”

“Fr Robert is 77 and retired, and even putting aside the bonds of brotherhood, we can hardly put him out on the street,” he wrote, noting that “many brothers in the Community disagree with his stance, but we have a tradition of respecting each other’s views.”

Fr. Guiver told The Church of England Newspaper the letter writing campaign against Mgr. Mercer was misguided.  “Although much of the information is accurate, we cannot think that they know us very well, or they would know that we don’t mind criticism and there is no need to be anonymous,” he said, adding “his assumptions about the relationship between Anglicans and Roman Catholics are very narrow, and I expect this is a person with anti-Roman Catholic prejudice who is not very familiar with the ecumenical scene.”

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