Statement on His Affiliation with Rome

Author: Clarence Pope

MEMORANDUM TO: The Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth FROM: Bishop Pope DATE: 25 October 1994

I wish to express my everlasting thankfulness to Almighty God and gratitude to you and your people for the rare privilege of serving you in the episcopal ministry for the past ten years. I pray that we have all grown in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ as we offered ourselves through the exercise of the Sacred Ministry. As your bishop I always sensed a homecoming as I made parochial visits -- I was at home at the altar of your parish church as we celebrated and shared the Holy Eucharist together. For me there was the constant awareness of the Christian family gathered around their Father-in-God. The remembrance of those week by week visitations colored whatever else I did in the episcopate. Thanks be to God. And now I must take my leave of you, beginning another chapter in my pilgrimage of Faith. On the 17th of this month I confirmed my last class at St. Luke's-in-the-Meadow and have now ceased to function in the episcopate. As you are already aware I have surrendered all ecclesiastical authority to Bishop Iker in writing and will not take it up again. He is in complete control and charge of the diocese in every aspect of its operation so that on January 1st he will have been the bishop already from every practical standpoint. I have vacated the bishop's office and am now trying to make the accumulation of forty and a half years of books and things fit into our home. My love for the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism is very deep. I owe much to this church and especially for introducing me to an understanding of Catholic sacramental principles and the disciplined life which follows. Over the many years of ministry, first as a priest for thirty years and now as a bishop, the catholic elements within Anglicanism seemed to me to beg for more wholeness. I thrilled to the possibilities for our communion as the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission took up their work and made such wonderful progress in finding a way forward toward organic reunion between Rome and Canterbury. Every province of our communion endorsed the principle of organic reunion and our hopes soared. Anglicanism had much to offer and much more so in full communion with the Holy See from which we had come. I grew more and more to believe that full communion with the Holy See was not just desirable but essential to full catholic life. Isaiah's admonition to "look unto the rock whence ye are hewn" (Isa. 51:1) seemed to me to reflected centuries later when Jesus gave Simon Bar-Jona the name Peter, rock, and said ". . . on this rock I will build my church . . . " (Matt. 16:18) And so many of us continued to pray and work for institutional reunion with the See of Peter. However one by one the provinces of the Anglican Communion began to make decisions concerning the sacred ministry which greatly increased the problems of institutional reunion with the Holy See. And yet many of continued to hope that somehow the Church of England would not do this and that there would still be a way forward toward reunion. In November 1992 this hope disappeared and it was then that I became very aware that the pilgrimage I had longed to take corporately would now have to be taken alone. At that time we were preparing for the election of the bishop coadjutor and I knew that I would need to stay in place until he was elected, consecrated and settled. That has now all taken place and in Bishop Iker we have a strong leader who has already taken the reins of leadership in a very forceful way. My prayers will go up for him daily. What I have written is a very brief glimpse of a long spiritual journey in which the Episcopal Church played a major part. I love her and all the best that Anglicanism has produced over the centuries. I said all this in an exceptionally good visit with the Presiding Bishop about my pilgrimage this past week. He and I exchanged memories of our relationship going back forty-four years to our days at Sewanee. Ultimately it will be his responsibility to take whatever action is necessary when I am received into full communion with the Catholic Church. When in the future this happens we agreed that we would talk again. I do not view my anticipated action as a repudiation of what I am or that it brings into doubt the validity of any sacramental act I ever performed as a priest or bishop. My journey is a spiritual progression toward what I have come to believe is fullness and I ask your prayers and I assure you of mine. My beloved wife, joins me in our walk of faith under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and without her constant support and wise counsel I would have found my task infinitely more difficult. When appropriate I shall offer myself for service through the Pastoral Provision for Anglicans coming into full communion with the Holy See. In this regard I hope to be of use in the possible development of the pastoral provision which I would consider reflective of some of the goals of those years of reunion talks. In the Gospel of St. Luke Jesus speaks to Peter and tells him that Satan demanded to have him " . . . but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again , strengthen your brethren." (Luke 22:31) And so I turn to Peter to be strengthened in the Lord for more service in His Holy Church in the remaining years of my life. May God richly bless you in your life and work in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort worth. +Clarence C. Pope EPISCOPAL BISHOP TO ENTER CATHOLIC CHURCH FORT WORTH, October 26 -- Bishop Clarence C. Pope, Jr., the highest-ranking Episcopalian to affiliate with the Roman Catholic Church in this century, says that his conversion affirms the spirit of the Catholic unity for which he has consistently labored. "My journey," Pope said, "is a spiritual progression toward what I have come to believe is fulness..." The Fort Worth bishop, an internationally known proponent of historic Christian theology and practice, said he hopes to serve his new church under its Pastoral Provision for Anglican converts. Pope, who observes his 65th birthday today, was elected spiritual head of the sprawling, 24 county diocese of Fort Worth in 1984. He said in a farewell letter to diocesan clergy that he had vacated his office. Earlier this month, at the diocese's annual convention, he announced that he was handing over all ecclesiastical authority to Bishop Coadjutor Jack L. Iker. "He [Iker] is in complete control and charge of the diocese in every aspect of its operation." Pope said. A central force behind the 1989 organization of the traditionalist Episcopal Synod of America, Pope now becomes the second leader of worldwide Anglicanism to join the Roman Catholic Church. Retired Bishop Graham Leonard of London, who addressed the synod's founding meeting, left the Church of England after it voted in 1992 to accept women as priests. Episcopal traditionalists, like their Roman Catholic counterparts, maintain that the women's ordination overthrows sacramental integrity by violating Jesus Christ's example in choosing only men as apostles. Pope resigned as president of the ESA in 1992, but the organization's nationwide activities continue under the presidency of Donald Peter Moriarty of Orange, California. The Fort Worth bishop said that by converting to Roman Catholicism, he was not repudiating the reality of the ministry he has exercised within the Episcopal Church, nor did he intend to cast doubt on any sacramental act he has performed. He expressed love for the Episcopal Church "and all the best that Anglicanism has produced over the centuries." He praised Anglicanism for "introducing me to an understanding of catholic sacramental principles and the disciplined life which follows." Pope said, nonetheless, the Anglican-Roman reunion he had hoped for became impossible once Anglicanism's mother church -- the Church of England -- accepted women priests. "I became very aware," he said, "that the pilgrimage I had longed to take corporately would now have to be taken alone." A native of Shreveport, LA, Pope attended Centenary College and the University of the South and was ordained priest in 1955. He had been rector of Saint Luke's Church, Baton Rouge, for 22 years at the time of his election to head the Diocese of Fort Worth. The bishop and his wife, Martha, who is a medical doctor have two children. For further information, contact Bishop Pope at (817) 738-1644 (voice); (817) 738-0068 (facsimile) --OR-- Fr. Allan Hawkins (817) 460-2278 or (817) 277-4041 (voice); (817) 277-9927 (facsimile)