VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In response to 11 questions that were reportedly raised about Pope Francis’ document restricting pre-Vatican II Mass celebrations, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments offered some concessions to the bishops but insisted on the fact that the whole of the rite Catholic Church must be oriented towards the celebration of a single form of the mass and the sacraments.
“It is sad to see how the deepest bond of unity, the sharing of the one broken bread that is his body offered for all to be one, becomes a cause of division”, wrote Archbishop Arthur Roche , prefect of the congregation, in a document published on December 18.
In a formal “responsa ad dubia” – answer to questions – Bishop Roche declared: “It is the duty of the bishops, cum Petro and sub Petro (with and under Peter, the Pope), to safeguard communion, which, as that the apostle Paul reminds us, is a necessary condition to be able to participate in the Eucharistic table.
Writing to presidents of episcopal conferences, the archbishop said: “As pastors, we must not be open to sterile controversies, capable only of creating divisions, in which the ritual itself is often exploited by points. ideological point of view.
In July, Pope Francis promulgated his apostolic letter “Traditionis Custodes” (Guardians of Tradition), declaring that the liturgical books promulgated after Vatican Council II were “the sole expression of the“ lex orandi ”(law of worship) of the Roman Church. Rite ”, restoring the obligation of priests to have the permission of their bishops to celebrate according to the“ extraordinary ”or pre-Vatican II mass and ordering the bishops not to establish new groups or parishes in their dioceses devoted to the ancient liturgy.
The document canceled or severely restricted the permissions granted by Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate the so-called Tridentine Rite Mass as an awareness to the followers of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and to serve attached Catholics to the old ritual. .
In his document, Pope Francis asked the bishops to “designate one or more places where the faithful of these groups can meet for the Eucharistic celebration”, but he declared that these places should not be parish churches and that the bishops should not establish new “personal parishes”. ”Only for the celebrations of the old rite.
Archbishop Roche said several bishops had asked if it would be possible for them to ask the Vatican for permission to allow celebrations in parish churches when other suitable locations were not available.
“The exclusion of the parish church aims to affirm that the celebration of the Eucharist according to the previous rite, being a concession limited to these groups, is not part of the ordinary life of the parish community”, wrote the archbishop.
However, he said the Vatican would consider the bishops’ exception requests, but “such a celebration should not be included in the program of parish masses, as it is attended only by faithful members of that group. Finally, it should not be held at the same time as the pastoral activities of the parish community.
And, he said, “it is understood that when another location becomes available, that authorization will be withdrawn.”
Another question concerned the use of other pre-Vatican II rituals for the celebrations of other sacraments. Bishop Roche declared that baptisms, confessions, marriages and anointing of the sick could be celebrated according to the old rites, but not confirmation or ordination. And, he said, this authorization is limited to “personal parishes” totally dedicated to the celebration of the ancient liturgy.
On other questions:
– Bishop Roche declared that a priest who does not recognize “the validity and the legitimacy of the concelebration” and, in particular, who refuses to concelebrate, even during the annual chrism mass with the bishop, should not be allowed to celebrate the old rite since the refusal “seems to express a lack of acceptance of the liturgical reform and a lack of ecclesial communion with the bishop”.
– He said that the insistence in “Traditionis Custodes” that a bishop obtain permission from the Vatican to authorize an ordained priest after the publication of the document to celebrate the old liturgy “is not simply an advisory opinion, but a necessary authorization “.
– Deacons and other instituted ministers participating in the celebrations of the old rite must also have the permission of the bishop, just like the priests who preside over them.
– A priest who celebrates a mass on weekdays according to the current rite of the Catholic Church cannot celebrate a second mass according to the old rite on the same day.