Father David Waller will become the first bishop Ordinary of the Ordinariate. / Credit: Courtesy photo / Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales

National Catholic Register, Apr 29, 2024 / 18:45 pm (CNA).

The Vatican has announced a new leader of the ordinariate in Great Britain.

Father David Waller, 62, a parish priest and vicar general of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, will replace Monsignor Keith Newton, 72, who is retiring after serving over 13 years as the ordinary of the ecclesiastical structure for former Anglicans.

In a statement, Newton called the Vatican’s April 29 announcement “momentous” given that Waller, who is a celibate, will become the first bishop ordinary of the ordinariate. 

As someone who was already married as an Anglican clergyman before entering the Church through the ordinariate, Newton was not allowed episcopal consecration.

Established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 through his 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, the ordinariate is an ecclesiastical structure for Anglicans wishing to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining their distinctive Anglican patrimony.  

With today’s announcement, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham becomes the first of three in the world — the others being in the U.S./Canada and Australia — to have had an influence in choosing its leader. 

In keeping with the Anglican emphasis on consultation and in accordance with the Anglicanorum Coetibus, members of the ordinariate’s governing council, made up of ordinariate priests, were able to choose Waller as one of three names they recommended to the Holy See. 

Monsignor Keith Newton, 72, is retiring after serving over 13 years as the ordinary of the ecclesiastical structure for former Anglicans. Credit: Edward Pentin

Newton said he believed allowing this faculty, one that is usually left to the apostolic nuncio, “showed the Holy See’s confidence in the ordinariate in the U.K.” 

A former Anglican vicar who served as a pastor, part-time hospital chaplain, and a member of the governing body of the Church of England, Waller was among the first Anglican clergy to be received into the Church following the establishment of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in 2011. 

He was then ordained to the diaconate and the priesthood, has served in two parishes, and was elected chairman of the ordinariate’s governing council. For the past four years he has worked with Newton as vicar general. 

In a statement, Waller said it was “both humbling and a great honor” to have been appointed ordinary. “The past 13 years have been a time of grace and blessing as small and vulnerable communities have grown in confidence, rejoicing to be a full yet distinct part of the Catholic Church,” he added. 

Already well known to members of the ordinariate, he said he was looking forward to serving them in his new role, adding that experience over these past years has taught him “there is nothing to be feared in responding to the Lord and that Jesus does great things with us despite our inadequacies.”

Newton said in a statement that he was “delighted” with Waller’s appointment, adding that he has been “unwaveringly loyal” to the ordinariate and a “great support” to him as vicar general. 

Waller has been “totally been involved in life of the ordinariate and understands it all, and is a good administrator,” Newton told the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner. 

No coercion to step down

Newton stressed that he had chosen to retire while he is still active. 

“I’ve not been forced out in any way, and nobody has told me to retire; it’s totally my own decision,” he said. “It’s a time to pass it on to new hands,” he continued, adding that he and his wife, Gill, “want to enjoy a bit of retirement together.” 

Other prominent priests of the ordinariate also welcomed the news of Waller’s appointment. Father Ed Tomlinson, priest in charge of St. Anselm’s Ordinariate Parish Church in Pembury, Tunbridge Wells, told the Register he was “delighted the ordinariate will have a bishop” and that he wished “Father David the best.” 

Father Benedict Kiely, an ordinariate priest of the same parish who also runs the charity Nasarean.org for persecuted Christians, said: “I will always remain grateful to Msgr. Keith for making the defense of persecuted Christians an important part of the ordinariate, and I’m sure Bishop David will continue that support.”

Newton said the date and place of Waller’s episcopal ordination have yet to be confirmed but that he expected it to take place “towards the end of June.” 

This story was first published by the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner, and is reprinted here on CNA with permission.