The former Anglican Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, has been ordained as a Catholic priest by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, in a ceremony described by the Cardinal as a “moment of great joy.” The ordination, held on on Saturday 30 October, was, Nichols added, an occasion to “to build on the fruitfulness of the priestly ministry” Nazir-Ali had “faithfully exercised for so many years.”
Celebrated by Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, the ordination Mass was attended by three retired Anglican Bishops: Nicholas Reade, former Bishop of Blackburn, Michael Langrish, former Bishop of Exeter, and John Hind, former Bishop of Chichester. In a speech at the mass, Dr. Nazir-Ali extended particular thanks to Bernard Longley, Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, also in attendance at the ceremony.
Fr Nazir-Ali, who was received into full communion with the Catholic church on 29 September 2020, was ordained a priest in the Anglican communion in 1976, and served as Bishop of Rochester from 1994 to 2009. At one point a favourite to become Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pakistani-born priest was educated at the Universities of Karachi, Oxford and Cambridge, holding a doctorate from the Australian College of Theology. Generally considered theologically conservative, Nazir-Ali was, as an Anglican, associated with the evangelical wing of the Church of England - and the global fellowship of conservative Anglicans, Gafcon.
The first non-white diocesan bishop in the Church of England, Fr Nazir-Ali emigrated to England from Pakistani in 1986 after receivng threats to his life. The former Anglican prelate was especially active in his work for persecuted Christians, stepping down from the active episcopacy in 2009 to give said cause more of his time and energy. Married with two children, he served as a “Lord Spiritual” in the House of Lords for a decade, beginning in 1999.
As a Catholic priest, Fr Nazir-Ali will work within the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, set up by Pope Benedict XVI to provide a home for Anglicans entering the Catholic Church where the distinctive liturgical and devotional “patrimony” of the Anglican Church can be preserved. The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory in Soho, the central church of the Ordinariate, was the site of Nazir-Ali’s ordination.
Speaking at the end of the Mass, celebrated with the “Ordinariate-use”, Mgr Keith Newton, a former Anglican Bishop who is also head of the English Ordinariate, congratulated the new Catholic priest on his ordination.