RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) — Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond issued a directive to a Catholic-Episcopal community in his diocese saying it must make changes to its Sunday liturgy to conform with the Catholic Church’s norms.

But he assured members of the Church of the Holy Apostles community in Virginia Beach he has no plans to withdraw the diocese’s support of the ecumenical community.

Holy Apostles, established in 1977, is a joint venture of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond and the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia, based in Norfolk. Its membership is approximately two-thirds Catholic and one-third Episcopalian.


The diocese said Bishop DiLorenzo met the evening of Feb. 21 with members of the Holy Apostles vestry council and the community’s co-pastors, Msgr. Raymond Barton, a Catholic priest, and the Rev. Michael Ferguson, an Episcopal priest.

The bishop, formerly a priest of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, reiterated a plan presented last fall and again in January to the co-pastors.

The directive, effective Feb. 28, would bring Holy Apostles back into compliance with the Catholic Church’s norms for celebrations of the Mass requires that the Catholic and Episcopal liturgies be separate.

It encourages the two communities to come together in an ecumenical spirit for morning or evening prayer before and after Mass.

The practice at Holy Apostles has been that the priests alternate who reads the Gospel and gives the homily.

The Catholic priest and the Episcopal priest each celebrate his respective church’s Liturgy of the Eucharist concurrently at separate altars in the same room and each distributes Communion to the members of his own community.

The Catholic Church requires that a Catholic priest preside over the celebration of the Mass beginning with the introductory rites; the Liturgy of the Word, which includes the reading of the Gospel and a homily, or sermon; and during the Liturgy of the Eucharist — the portion of the Mass when Catholics celebrate the Christ’s real presence as the bread and wine are consecrated into his body and blood.

“As the shepherd of the Diocese of Richmond, it is my prayerful desire that this ecumenical community at Holy Apostles continues and flourishes,” Bishop DiLorenzo said in a statement. “The work of the church demands efforts to promote ecumenism, since our Lord expressed his desire that the church be one, not divided as it is today.

“Our coming together with people of other Christian faiths should be motivated by a desire to seek the truth, and unity in prayer is always appropriate,” he added.

In early 2012, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to the U.S., sought a clarification from Bishop DiLorenzo of how Holy Apostles was celebrating its divine worship.

The Catholic Virginian, Richmond’s diocesan newspaper, reported that the archbishop’s request for clarification was prompted by a complaint made by a New York man who had written to the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Clergy after he read an article in an Episcopal magazine titled “Celebrating Together,” written by Rev. Ferguson and the Catholic co-pastor at the time, Father James E. Parke.

A formal study into Holy Apostles’ practice was followed by Bishop DiLorenzo’s directive to conform to Catholic Church norms.