07/16/2021, 16.42
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Pope puts brakes on celebrating Mass according to pre-conciliar rite

It is “ever more plain in the words and attitudes of many is the close connection between the choice of celebrations according to the liturgical books prior to Vatican Council II and the rejection of the Church and her institutions in the name of what is called the ‘true Church’.” The pontiff bemoans “abuses in the celebration of the liturgy on all sides”.


Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis published a motu proprio today putting brakes on the celebration of Mass in accordance with the pre-Second Vatican Council rite, the so-called Latin Mass, sometimes with a reference to the “true Church”.

Titled Traditiones Custodes, the papal decree says that the rules governing the celebration of the Roman liturgy are those set by Paul VI and John Paul II “in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II”.

In a letter explaining the document addressed to all the bishops, Francis cites “abuses in the celebration of the liturgy on all sides”, noting that when John Paul II and Benedict XVI allowed the use of the ancient missal it “was above all motivated by the desire to foster the healing of the schism with the movement of Mons. Lefebvre.”

Thirteen years after Pope Benedict’s decision, a survey carried out by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Francis’s behalf shows “a situation that preoccupies and saddens me, and persuades me of the need to intervene. Regrettably, the pastoral objective of my Predecessors, who had intended ‘to do everything possible to ensure that all those who truly possessed the desire for unity would find it possible to remain in this unity or to rediscover it anew’, has often been seriously disregarded.”

The concession granted “to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.”

“A final reason for my decision is this: ever more plain in the words and attitudes of many is the close connection between the choice of celebrations according to the liturgical books prior to Vatican Council II and the rejection of the Church and her institutions in the name of what is called the ‘true Church’.

“One is dealing here with comportment that contradicts communion and nurtures the divisive tendency – ‘I belong to Paul; I belong instead to Apollo; I belong to Cephas; I belong to Christ’ – against which the Apostle Paul so vigorously reacted. In defense of the unity of the Body of Christ, I am constrained to revoke the faculty granted by my Predecessors.”

From this comes Francis’s decision to entrust to the bishops the responsibility of regulating celebrations using the pre-Council rite. “Therefore, it is his [the bishop’s] exclusive competence to authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in his diocese, according to the guidelines of the Apostolic See.”

The bishop must ascertain that the groups that already celebrate using the old missal “do not deny the validity and the legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs”.

The “Indications about how to proceed in your dioceses are chiefly dictated by two principles: on the one hand, to provide for the good of those who are rooted in the previous form of celebration and need to return in due time to the Roman Rite promulgated by Saints Paul VI and John Paul II, and, on the other hand, to discontinue the erection of new personal parishes tied more to the desire and wishes of individual priests than to the real need of the ‘holy People of God’.”

Thus, Mass celebrated according to the ancient rite can no longer take place in parish churches. It will be up to individual bishops to indicate the church and the days of celebration, where readings must be “in the vernacular language”, that is, in the local language, using the translations approved by the bishops’ conferences.

The celebrant will be a priest delegated by the bishop, who knows Latin well, “animated by a lively pastoral charity and by a sense of ecclesial communion” since he must have at heart not only the dignified celebration of the liturgy, but also the pastoral and spiritual care of the faithful. Bishops shall “take care not to authorize the establishment of new groups.”

Priests ordained after the publication of today's Motu proprio, who intend to celebrate Mass with the pre-conciliar missal “should submit a formal request to the diocesan Bishop who shall consult the Apostolic See.” Those that already do so will have to ask the diocesan bishop for authorisation to continue using it.

The institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, “erected in due time by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei come under the competence of the Congregation for Religious.” The dicasteries of divine worship and consecrated life will uphold the observance of these rules. (FP)

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