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UK ordinariate’s first bishop is ‘vote of confidence’ from Rome

The ordinariate for former Anglican clergy and lay Catholics in the UK will have its first bishop leader, the Vatican announced Monday.

Fr. David Waller will become the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham’s second ordinary, and its first bishop. 

Una nuova guida per l'ordinariato di ex anglicani in Inghilterra
Fr. David Arthur Waller. Image via Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

Waller’s appointment, like his pending consecration as bishop, signals the English ordinariate’s growing stability after more than a decade of existence, and is a “vote of confidence” from Rome, according to a senior priest of the ordinariate. 


Fr. Waller, 62, a former priest of the Church of England, decided to enter the Catholic Church following the promulgation of Anglicanorum coetibus in 2009, and has previously been serving as vicar general of the ordinariate.

The Walsingham ordinariate is the first of three particular churches created to accept former Anglicans and to provide for their liturgical and spiritual patrimony, under the norms of Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus.

Fr. James Bradley, a priest of the ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. told The Pillar that Waller’s appointment and pending consecration as a bishop “is really the natural next step for any growing new jurisdiction.” 

The new bishop was announced on the same day as Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Msgr. Keith Newton, who has served as ordinary since the 2011 erection of the personal ordinariate. Newton, 72, a former bishop of the Anglican church, was ordained a priest in the Catholic Church in 2011 but, as a married man, was ineligible to be consecrated a bishop.

“Bishop-elect Waller’s appointment is first of all a sign of that: of the successes we’ve seen in the past 13 years since the establishment of the ordinariate under Monsignor Newton’s leadership.”

“[The ordinariate has] ordained well over 100 clergy, established [its] first parish, had [its] first seminarians, and seen the quiet development of our common life together. That’s all a process of becoming more normal,” Bradley said. 

The priest contrasted the development of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham with its two sister ordinariates, of the Chair of St. Peter in North America and Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australasia, noting that while in some cases entire Anglican communities had joined those ordinariates — along with their assets — the English ordinariate had experienced a more organic growth trajectory. 

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“In the U.S., the ordinariate was given a great foundation, inheriting the property, clergy, laity, and experience of nearly 30 years of the Pastoral Provision, [a 1981 canonical norm which allowed married Anglican priests to be ordained as priests, and incardinated in local dioceses]. We [in England and Wales] have had none of that, and so building from the ground up has - and will - take time,” said Bradley.

Waller will also be the first bishop-ordinary of one of the ordinariates to be consecrated from its own clerical ranks. 

The U.S.-based Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is led by Bishop Steven Lopes, who was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and served for several years as an official at the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, when the Vatican department was responsible for helping create the ordinariate structures and vet Anglican clergy seeking Catholic ordination.

The North American ordinariate was initially led by Msgr. Jeffery Steenson, a married former Episcopal bishop who retired in 2016, when Lopes was appointed. 

While the North American ordinariate has experienced growth, especially across the U.S., it has also faced financial challenges, with established parishes often finding themselves unable to support the financial needs of their appointed pastors.

The Australian ordinariate has previously had two ordinaries, neither of whom were consecrated bishop, and is now led by an apostolic administrator, Bishop Anthony Randazzo, the bishop of the Diocese of Broken Bay.

Randazzo took over leadership of the antipodean ordinariate in 2023, following an apostolic visitation of the ordinariate, saying that he had “much to learn, especially regarding the rich, beautiful, and distinctive theological, spiritual, and liturgical patrimony of the ordinariate.”

“I think it is really important that in Britain the next ordinary is someone who has a lived experience of the Anglican tradition,” said Bradley. 

“Our clergy and laity - almost without exception - came from the Church of England and had a pretty uniform liturgical outlook. We all knew each other for years before the ordinariate came into existence. So in that context, and with the benefit of over a decade of bedding down into the regular life of the Catholic Church in England, Wales, and Scotland, it would be inconceivable to have an ordinary who doesn’t come from that tradition, and who hasn’t journeyed with us through these past several years.”

In addition to pastoral concerns, the ordinariate communities have faced practical challenges to their sustainability since their creation by Benedict XVI. 

Before Randazzo’s appointment as administrator of the Southern Cross ordinariate, his predecessor as ordinary, Msgr. Carl Reid referred to the apostolic visitation as “a wake-up call” in his Easter appeal message last year and addressed frankly the practical challenges facing the ordinariate. 

“That brings more sharply into focus the need, not only for vocations (pray, please!), but also the means to ensure that our current seminarians receive the support, both spiritual and physical (financial) to see them through their studies and, pray God, their ordinations,” wrote Reid.

According to Fr. Bradley, however, the UK ordinariate is clear-eyed in assessing its challenges.

“Over the past five years or so the ordinariate has been formulating a concrete game plan for the future,” he told The Pillar.

“The initial excitement and enthusiasm that came in the early days and accompanied the new liturgical provision now needs to fuel the building up of a real community of faith. We need the normal structures of ecclesial life: parishes, church buildings, and so on.” 

“That will need conviction on our part and generosity from others,” Bradley said. “This appointment is a vote of confidence from the Holy See, and we will need to help others see that, and ask them to help us. Bishop-elect Waller has been part of those conversations throughout, so he’s well-placed to lead us forward in that work.”

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