Citing concerns over unity, Pope Francis reinstates limits on celebration of pre-Vatican II ‘Tridentine’ Mass

Msgr. Peter B. Wells, left, an American priest who works at the Vatican Secretariat of State, leaves a Tridentine Rite Mass celebrated at the altar of the pulpit in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on May 15, 2011. (CNS photo/Paul haring)

VATICAN CITY — Claiming he was acting for the sake of the unity of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has reinstated the limits of the celebration of Mass according to the Roman missal in use before the Second Vatican Council, canceling or restricting strictly the authorizations Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had given to celebrate the so-called Tridentine Rite Mass.

“An opportunity offered by Saint John Paul II and, with even more magnanimity by Benedict XVI, intended to rediscover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensitivities, has been exploited to deepen the gaps, reinforce the differences and encourage disagreements that hurt the church, block its path and expose it to the peril of division,” Pope Francis wrote in a July 16 letter to bishops.

The text accompanies his apostolic letter “Traditionis Custodes” (Guardians of Tradition), declaring that the liturgical books promulgated after the Second Vatican Council are “the unique expression of the ‘lex orandi’ (law of worship) of the Roman rite”, re-establishing the obligation of priests to have their bishops the authorization to celebrate according to the “extraordinary” or pre-Vatican II Mass and the order to the bishops not to establish new groups or parishes in their dioceses dedicated to the old liturgy.

Priests currently celebrating Mass according to the Old Missal must seek permission from their bishop to continue doing so, Pope Francis has ordered, and for any priest ordained after the document’s publication on July 16, the bishop must consult the Vatican before granting permission.

Pope Francis also transferred to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments the responsibility of overseeing the implementation of the new rules.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI published “Sommerum Pontificumon the use of pre-Vatican II Roman liturgy. It says that any priest of the Latin Rite church can, without further authorization from the Vatican or its bishop, celebrate the “extraordinary form” of the Mass according to the rite published in 1962. The Roman Missal based on the revisions of the Council Vatican II was published in 1969.

The conditions laid down by Pope Benedict for the use of the old rite were that there was a desire, that the priest should know the rite and Latin well enough to celebrate with dignity and that he ensure that the good of the parishioners desiring the extraordinary form “harmonizes with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the government of the bishop in accordance with canon 392, avoiding discord and promoting the unity of the whole Church”.

The now-retired Pope also insisted that Catholics celebrating primarily in the Old Rite recognize the validity of the New Mass and accept the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

In his letter to bishops, Pope Francis said responses to a survey of world bishops conducted last year by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “reveal a situation that worries me and saddens me and persuades me of the need to intervene. Unfortunately, the pastoral objective of my predecessors, who intended “to make every effort so that all those who truly possessed the desire for unity, find the possibility of remaining in this unity or of rediscovering it new,” has often been gravely ignored.”

“Increasingly clear in the words and attitudes of many is the close connection between the choice of celebrations according to the liturgical books before the Second Vatican Council and the rejection of the Church and its institutions in the name of what is calls the ‘true Church’,” wrote Pope Francis.

To promote Church unity, Pope Francis said, bishops must care for Catholics “who are rooted in the previous form of celebration” while helping them “return in due time” to the celebration of the mass according to the new missal.

The pope also indicated that he believed that sometimes parishes and communities consecrated to the ancient liturgy were the idea of ​​the priests involved and not the result of a group of Catholic faithful wishing to celebrate this mass.

Pope Francis has asked bishops “to discontinue the erection of new personal parishes linked more to the desire and wishes of individual priests than to the real needs of the ‘holy people of God’.”

However, he also said that many people thrive on more solemn celebrations of the Mass, so he asked the bishops “to be vigilant that each liturgy is celebrated with decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books promulgated after the Second Vatican Council. , without the eccentricities that can easily degenerate into abuse.

The liturgical life of the church has changed and developed over the centuries, the pope noted.

“St. Paul VI, recalling that the work of adapting the Roman Missal had already been initiated by Pius XII, declared that the revision of the Roman Missal, carried out in the light of ancient liturgical sources, was intended to enable the Church to raise, in the variety of languages, “one single and identical prayer” which expresses its unity,” Pope Francis said. “This unity, I intend to restore throughout the Roman Rite Church. “


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