Vatican City, Nov 24, 2015 / 07:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. Steven Lopes, a Catholic priest from California, as the new bishop who will head the Anglican Ordinariate in the United States and Canada.
Bishop-elect Lopes, 40, is originally from the Archdiocese of San Francisco in the United States, and currently serves as an official for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
He will be taking over for Msgr. Jeffrey N. Steenson, a former Episcopal bishop appointed by Benedict XVI in 2012 to shepherd the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is a special diocese-like structure that allows entire Anglican communities to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining certain elements of the liturgy and other customs.
Ordinariates are similar to dioceses but typically national in scope. Pope Benedict authorized the creation of ordinariates for Anglican communities seeking to enter the Catholic Church in his 2009 apostolic constitution, “Anglicanorum coetibus.”
Based in Houston, Texas, the Ordinariate has more than 40 Roman Catholic parishes and communities across the United States and Canada.
A married Anglican priest can be ordained a Catholic priest but not a bishop. Instead, as in the case of Msgr. Steenson, they become an “ordinary,” who carries all the authority of a bishop except that of being able to ordain priests.
Msgr. Lopes’ appointment, then, marks the first time a Roman Catholic bishop has been named for any of the worlds’ three Personal Ordinariates: Our Lady of Walsingham in the United Kingdom; the Chair of Saint Peter in the United States and Canada; and Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.
The announcement that bishop-elect Lopes will be taking over for the retiring Msgr. Steenson came in a Nov. 24 communique from the Vatican.
In a press release shortly after the announcement, Msgr. Steenson said that he had asked the Vatican last year that a bishop be appointed to replace him in leading the Ordinariate.
“I welcome this news with all my heart, for the Ordinariate has now progressed to the point where a bishop is much needed for our life and mission,” he said. “A bishop will help to give the Ordinariate the stability and permanence necessary to fulfil its mission to be a work of Catholic unity, whose roots are to be found in the great texts of the Second Vatican Council.”
From the creation of the Ordinariate, Msgr. Steenson continued, the ultimate goal was that a bishop would eventually be the head.
“It is indeed an encouraging sign that we have reached that goal,” he said.
Born and raised in Fremont, Calif., Msgr. Lopes attended Catholic schools throughout his childhood, as well as the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco.
He entered seminary in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He studied theology at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, Calif. and later in Rome, at the Pontifical North American College.
After being ordained a priest June 23, 2001, and serving in various pastoral assignments Msgr. Lopes went on to obtain both licentiate and doctoral degrees in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Since Sept. 1, 2005, the bishop-elect has served as an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and has also taught theology at the Gregorian University. He was named a monsignor in 2010.
Msgr. Lopes’ ordination to the episcopate is scheduled to take place Feb. 2, 2016, in Houston.
Though Msgr. Steenson’s retirement is effective immediately, he will serve as the Ordinariate’s administrator until Lopes officially takes canonical possession in February.
A Nov. 24 press release from the Ordinariate explained that with bishop-elect Lopes’ appointment, Pope Francis “affirms and amplifies Pope Benedict’s vision for Christian unity, in which diverse expressions of one faith are joined together in the Church.”
“By naming Bishop-elect Lopes, the Pope has confirmed that the Ordinariate is a permanent, enduring part of the Catholic Church, like any other diocese – one that is now given a bishop so that it may deepen its contribution to the life of the Church and the world.”
The press released also noted that Msgr. Lopes’ appointment falls just five days before the Ordinariate will begin using a new book of liturgical texts titled “Divine Worship: The Missal,” which will be used for the celebration of Mass in personal ordinariates throughout the world.
The texts in the missal have been approved by the Vatican and will be used for the first time Nov. 20, 2015, the First Sunday of Advent.
Msgr. Lopes was deeply involved in developing the text, and since 2011 has served as the executive coordinator of the Vatican commission “Anglicanae Traditiones,” which produced the new texts.
In the press release, the Ordinariate called the new missal as “a milestone,” and praised both Benedict XVI’s vision for unity as well as how Pope Francis is concretely implementing it.
Both of these together “demonstrate that unity in faith allows for a vibrant diversity in the expression of that faith. The Ordinariate is a key ecumenical venture for the Catholic Church and a concrete example of this unity in diversity.”
The new bishop-elect will be introduced by Msgr. Steenson at a live news conference in Houston at 10:30 a.m. local time inside the Chancery Offices of the Ordinariate.
After celebrating the Mass on the first Sunday of Advent in Houston with the new missal, Msgr. Lopes will return to Rome to finish to finish his work at the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith. He will then then return to Texas at the end of the calendar year.