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The ordinariate has enabled former Anglicans to join the Catholic Church without their spiritual heritage disappearing “like sugar dissolved in water”, its leader said.
Mgr Keith Newton told a congregation at Portsmouth Cathedral that Christian unity did not mean uniformity. "Many Catholics are not aware of or have misunderstandings about the Ordinariate," which he said represented “a new expression of Catholicism”.
He said that people sometimes asked members of the ordinariate set up by Benedict XVI for Anglicans seeking communion with Rome why they couldn't become "proper Catholics". He said: "What they mean is why can't you just be absorbed into the wider Catholic Church so that what you bring disappears like sugar dissolved in water?"
He stressed the importance of sharing a common faith while still preserving some liturgical distinctiveness, citing the Vatican-approved Ordinariate Use Mass, which integrates parts of the Book of Common Prayer.
Mgr Newton, who was invited to give the homily at the Mass by the Bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan, was speaking ahead of an ordinariate “exploration day” which will take place in various dioceses on 6 September.
Pope Francis last week said he was “praying for the success” of the event, which aims to attract new members.