A splendid meeting in Westminster, with hundreds of laity and priests and bishops and seminarians.
How remarkable was the enthusiasm - especially among the younger priests and seminarians - for the Holy Father's generous initiative.
The laity shared this sense of a wonderful historical moment, but had their own concerns about property; about whether the C of E would let it follow the Ordinariates.
I printed in New Directions quite recently a sermon which, knowing that something like the Constitution was imminent, I preached at our Patronal Festival at S Thomas's in July; in which I pointed out that our medieval churches were not built by Protestants or Liberals; and neither were the new slum churches built by the great Anglo-Catholic clergy of the Victorian period. The C of E, which is a dab hand at declaring churches redundant, has no need to be mean to us.
But there is a theological point here, and I think the Laity were entirely right in their concerns.
Churches, in Catholic Tradition, are massive and significant Sacramentals. They were consecrated in lengthy rites with powerful symbols; the tracing of alphabets on the floor; the anointing of the Consecration Crosses inside and out; the consecration of Altars and the sealing within them of the relics. I was reminded of this recently as I read the Opera of Benedict XIV; a King - John - of Portugal had had an entire and very grand prefabricated Chapel made in Rome (yes: the one which featured so prominently in the recent V & A Baroque exhibition). The king had asked the Pope himself to consecrate it before it was transported to Lisbon. And he did. And he wrote to the King to tell him that he had done so; and reminded his Lusitanian Majesty that the rites of Consecration are so lengthy and so tiring that the Pontificale permits a second person to take over towards the end and actually sing the Mass. But, says this admirable Pontiff, "I did it all myself".
Our churches are not, as one enthusiastic young priest seemed to imply, fairly insignificant pieces of property. They embody the love and the history and the memory of the communities which built and sustained them.
Why should the Liberals have them?
So that they can sell them to property developers?