LONDON — Pope Benedict XVI has donated $250,000 to the personal ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which covers England and Wales.

In a May 1 statement, the ordinary, Msgr. Keith Newton, said, “I am very grateful to the Holy Father for his generosity and support. This gift is a great help and encouragement as we continue to grow and develop our distinctive ecclesial life, whilst seeking to contribute to the wider work of evangelization in England and Wales.”

Speaking to the Register, Msgr. Newton said he did not as yet know from which Vatican fund the money has come, but it was a surprise, as the ordinariate has been surviving “hand to mouth.”

“We’ve been talking about the possibility of trying to get some funds from somewhere, but this particular one was a surprise,” he said.

The monsignor told the Register that it had not yet been discussed how the money would be used, but “there are lots of things to be done.”

“We might try and invest a little bit of it to start an investment, so that we can do something for the sick and the retired clergy — we’ve got to begin that,” he said.

“There is a huge pile of things, but we haven’t really thought about it yet, though we have worked out a budget of how much we thought it might be to run the ordinariate each year, and this will go towards that,” he commented.

Asked how he would respond to those who would question why the ordinariate has been favored with such a gift, Msgr. Newton told the Register, “I can’t answer that, but Cardinal [William] Levada, in his speech when he came to England in September, said this is the Holy Father’s project. The Holy Father has got an interest in this and wants to see it flourish and succeed.”

The apostolic nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, played a role in securing the donation. In a statement, he said, “The Holy Father’s gift of $250,000 is a clear sign of his personal commitment to the work of Christian unity and the special place the ordinariate holds in his heart. I pray for the continuing success and development of the ordinariate.”

The nuncio, who celebrated the ordinariate’s first chrism Mass during Holy Week, continued, “I urge all those who share our Holy Father’s vision to lend their spiritual and material support to the ordinariate, especially in these early days.”

During the Easter period, the ordinariate welcomed several new groups from across the country, including from Lancashire, Kent, Yorkshire and South East London. In total, there were more than 250 new members.

In addition, the ordinariate has just ordained its first two “new” priests, and, at the end of May, Bishop Alan Hopes, an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Westminster, will ordain the group’s first new deacons at Westminster Cathedral in London.

James Kelly is a columnist for The Universe and a researcher at the University of London.