Houston, Texas, Mar 28, 2017 / 03:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See directed last week that the oldest Catholic parish of the Anglican Use, located in San Antonio, will be transferred from the local archdiocese into the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter.
“Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church and its school, the Atonement Academy, have been transferred to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, effective March 21,” read a statement. The ordinariate of St. Peter's chair is a special ecclesial jurisdiction for Catholics in the United States and Canada who were nurtured in the Anglican tradition or whose faith has been renewed by the Ordinariate.
“At the direction of the Holy See, all parishes of the Pastoral Provision are to be incorporated into the Ordinariate,” read the March 21 communique.
Our Lady of the Atonement parish had been founded in 1983 as part of the “pastoral provision” established by St. John Paul II to allow former Anglicans to form Catholic parishes within existing United States dioceses. Until last week, the parish was part of the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Subsequently to the pastoral provision, Benedict XVI established ordinariates, which effectively provided former Anglicans with their own dioceses within the Catholic Church.
“With the establishment of the North American Ordinariate in 2012 and the ordination of its first bishop in 2016, the Holy See now expects all Pastoral Provision parishes in the U.S. to be integrated into the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter,” the ordinariate's statement explained.
“The Ordinariate expresses its deepest gratitude to the Archdiocese of San Antonio for welcoming and caring for Our Lady of the Atonement since its inception, and for the Archdiocese’s ongoing commitment to the Church’s care for the unity of Christians. Through continued collaboration in the coming months, the Archdiocese and the Ordinariate will remain dedicated to supporting the natural evolution of this Pastoral Provision parish into the Ordinariate.”
While the ordinariate's statement only includes Our Lady of the Atonement by name, the transferral would also presumably apply to the Congregation of Saint Athanasius, a pastoral provision parish located in a Boston suburb and heretofore part of the Archdiocese of Boston.
The Vatican's directive that Our Lady of the Atonement should be transferred to the ordinariate is the outcome of several months of conflict between the parish and the San Antonio archdiocese. Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio had in January begun proceedings to remove Atonement's pastor, Fr. Christopher Phillips, who had been pastor from the parish's founding. In a Jan. 19 letter the archbishop cited “pastoral concern” about Fr. Phillips relating “to expressions in the life of the parish that indicate an identity separate from, rather than simply unique, among the parishes of the archdiocese.” Another priest was appointed administrator of the parish, and Fr. Phillips was asked “to dedicate some time to reflect on certain specific concerns.”
Late in 2016, Fr. Phillips had sought to join the ordinariate. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the ordinariate's spokesperson, Jenny Faber, indicated Fr. Phillips will remain at the parish as pastor emeritus, and a new pastor will be appointed in due time.
The Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter includes more than 40 parishes and communities. Its ordinary, Bishop Steven Lopes, was appointed in November 2015 and had previously served as an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The North American ordinariate is one of three such bodies; it has counterparts in the United Kingdom and Australia.