reprinted with additions from the Catholic Herald

 Robert Mercer, the fourth Anglican bishop of Matabeleland, was ordained a priest for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the UK end of last month. 

Robert Mercer, centre, with Mgr Keith Newton, left, and Bishop Alan Hopes. (photo courtesy of

The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is a personal ordinariate of the Roman Catholic Church immediately subject to the Holy See within the territory of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, of which its ordinary is a member, and encompassing Scotland also. It was established on 15 January 2011 for groups of former Anglicans in England and Wales in accordance with the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus of Pope Benedict XVI.

 Mercer, 77, grew up in Zimbabwe and later worked across the Limpopo. In 1970, Mercer was deported from South Africa for his stand against apartheid, along with several other Anglican priests. He was then chaplain of St Augustine’s School Penhalonga in Manicaland and then rector of Borrowdale in Harare.

In 1977, he went on to become Bishop of Matabeleland in the Anglican Province of Central Africa, in the midst of liberation struggle. He was bishop for 11 years before leaving the Anglican Communion to join the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, part of the worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion. He served as metropolitan bishop from 1988 to 2005, when he retired to England.

Ordained as an Anglican priest in 1960, Robert Mercer's first post was as a curate at Hillside, Bulawayo (pictured).

Mercer became a Catholic in January 2012. According to him, Pope Benedict XVI’s offer of an ordinariate to Anglicans in 2009 was “an answer to our prayers, to our dreams”. He said he had been longing for Christian unity since the early 1980s, when Pope John Paul II and Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, issued a joint declaration thanking God for “the progress that has been made in the work of reconciliation”. 

Mercer added that, while, in a sense, the Pope’s offer of an ordinariate in Anglicanorum coetibus was “wonderful and sudden and too good to be true”, it was also the “fulfilment of 400 years of prayer and aspiration and hope and idealism”. “One day,” he said, “I hope the Anglican Communion will be reconciled with the Bishop of Rome.”