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English bishops urge Benedict XVI not to lift restrictions on Old Rite
THEENGLISH and Welsh Catholic bishops have told the Vatican they do not want the Pope to ease restrictions on the celebration of the Old Roman Rite of Mass. Pope Benedict XVI is about to publish a document which will allow wider use of the Old Rite, the socalled “Tridentine” Mass that served the Catholic Church from the Counter Reformation of the 16th century to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s. Although it remains valid, the Mass was largely suppressed in 1969 and can be celebrated by a priest only with the special permission of the diocesan bishop. The Pope wants to broaden its use in an attempt to unify the factions that have opened up within the Church over the reforms of the last 40 years. The Catholic Herald has learned, however, that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has written to the Holy See on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to tell them that the document is not necessary. The Cardinal’s remarks came in a confidential letter to the Vatican’s Ecclesia Dei Commission, an organisation set up in 1988 to try to bring back traditionalists who had left the Church in protest at the postconciliar reforms. In the letter he said that the document –a motu proprio (“on the Pope’s own initiative”) –was not needed in England and Wales because adequate provision existed for Catholics who wanted to attend Mass in the Old Rite. The disclosure is bound to spark outrage among traditionalists who have fought for decades for the reinstatement of the Old Rite Mass. A bishops’ conference spokesman admitted there had been correspondence between the Cardinal and the Vatican on the matter but said that the bishops had “not asked for an exemp
tion to any proposed motu proprio ”. “It should be pointed out that the Holy See is aware that an indult [special permission] was uniquely given to the bishops of England and Wales to grant permission for the celebration of the Tridentine Rite in the early 1970s,” he added. But John Medlin, general manager of the Latin Mass Society, said he was surprised that they regarded the provision of the Old Rite Mass as adequate. “The situation has indeed improved in some dioceses over the past few years –not least in the Cardinal’s own diocese of Westminster, for which traditionalists are very grateful,” he said. “However, other dioceses such as Plymouth, Wrexham and Salford make completely inadequate provision –verging on the non-existent – and traditional faithful in those dioceses have a strong impression that the bishops concerned are unresponsive to and dismissive of their needs. “The Latin Mass Society plans to approach these bishops individually in the near future and we hope that provision will soon improve.” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, revealed earlier this month that the easing of restrictions on the Old Rite Mass was imminent and that Pope Benedict was “personally interested in making this happen”. He said the Pontiff had also prepared an accompanying letter explaining his reasons and expressing his hopes for a serene reception of the document by the Church. The motu proprio is expected to be published before the Pope goes on holiday in the second week of July. Sources in Rome have indicated that a date has been set for a press conference at which Cardinal Francis Arinze, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the president of the Ecclesia Dei commission, and Cardinal Julian Herranz, the former president of the Pontifical
Council for Legislative Texts, will introduce the document. It is not yet clear exactly how the Pope intends to expand the use of the Old Rite but there has been speculation that he will oblige every bishop to licence at least a small number of priests to celebrate the Mass. England and Wales were the first countries in the world to be allowed to celebrate the Tridentine Mass –codified by Pope St Pius V in the 16th century at the request of the Council of Trent –after its suppression. An indult was granted in 1971 by Pope Paul VI after a group of English luminaries – including Graham Greene, Kingsley Amis, Agatha Christie, Kenneth Clark, William Rees-Mogg, Malcolm Muggeridge, Ralph Richardson, Cecil Day Lewis and Iris Murdoch – complained to him about the loss to civilisation and culture that the suppression represented. The indult was extended to the whole world in 1984 but was so restrictive that Pope John Paul II approved a third indult in 1989, following the excommunication of the traditionalist Swiss Archbishop Marcel Lefebrvre, who had refused to accept any of the reforms. This called on all bishops to be generous in their provision of the Mass. At the time Cardinal Basil Hume was among leading Western prelates to oppose the easing of any restrictions on the celebration of Mass in the Old Rite. The Tridentine Rite –whose admirers prefer to call it the Classical or Traditional Rite – differs from the new Mass in that it is always celebrated in Latin, with the priest leading the people facing east, the direction from which the Church believes Jesus will appear on the Last Day. The new Masses were conceived with the aims of being more accessible to the faithful and helping the Catholic Church to forge closer bonds with Protestant denominations that
have been holding prayer services in their national languages since the Reformation more than 400 years ago. But critics say they are sometimes banal and permeated with liturgical abuses and innovations which threaten the unity of the Church, as well as distractions such as inappropriate music and dancing. From the outset of his papacy Pope Benedict –who as Cardinal Ratzinger celebrated the Traditional Rite and ordained priests specifically to celebrate it –has made it clear he intends to revive the mystery and the majesty of the Mass. Traditionalists have argued that there is a growing interest in the old Mass, which many worshippers find more beautiful and inspiring than modern liturgies. But liberals are deeply wary because a number of the rite’s adherents are associated with ultra-conservative groups that oppose the radical reforms ushered in by the Council. They are also worried that the move signals the Pope’s growing determination to reinforce conservative doctrines in his battle against the forces of secularism. Pope Benedict, however, has spoken of his wish to achieve a “liturgical reconciliation” in a modern Church riven by factions. He has criticised the post-conciliar liturgical revolutions which he said had caused the Church “enormous harm”. He argued that in some cases congregations were simply celebrating themselves as a community rather than worshipping God. Most English and Welsh bishops have cautiously allowed some Old Rite Masses but seek to control their availability. On November 17 Auxiliary Bishop John Arnold of Westminster will make history when he becomes the first English bishop to celebrate an Old Rite Mass in Westminster Cathedral since the 1960s.
Editorial comment: Page 11
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor believes the motu proprio is unnecessary PA
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Papal preacher cancels Medjugorje retreat after local bishop complains
Don’t forget this smile!
THEPOPE ’ S official preacher has cancelled plans to conduct a spiritual retreat for priests at Mejugorje next month at the request of the local bishop. Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, a Franciscan Capuchin, agreed to preach at the unofficial Marian shrine in Bosnia Herzegovina at an event organised without the permission of the Diocese of Mostar. The preacher to the papal household was billed alongside Fr Jozo Zovko, a Franciscan who was stripped of his priestly faculties by Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar in 2004. Fr Cantalamessa cancelled his engagement after he was contacted by the diocese and told that he did not have official permission to
go there. “My principle is not to preach, especially not to the clergy, without the permission from the local bishop,” wrote Fr Cantalamessa in a letter to Bishop Peric. The organisers of the 12th International Spiritual Seminar for Priests had failed to comply with the rules set by the diocesan chancery of Mostar in a circular letter of 2001. These require all foreign priests “who have been invited to hold spiritual retreats, seminars and similar spiritual encounters” to be approved by the diocese in advance. “This diocesan chancery never received any written request for permission as is the norm, from either of the parties involved with regard to the spiritual retreat and its moderater,” said the statement from the Diocese
of Mostar-Duvno on Monday. Bishop Peric reportedly also objected to the way the seminar was advertised on the internet for months before it was due to happen. The statement re-iterated the comments in which Bishop Peric recently condemned the “obstinacy” of the priests and others who refused to acknowledge the Church’s official position on Medjugorje and the 2001 pastoral decision of the diocese. Medjugorje, according to the bishop’s statements, “is neither a diocesan nor national nor international shrine. This status must be acknowledged while the events remain as they stand.” Fr Ivan Sesar, a parish priest in Medjugorje, told Bishop Peric last week that “upon my insistence due to
the shortness of time, I asked Fr Cantalamessa to send his acknowledgement of receipt of my letter by fax, which he did in the meantime. He accepts my apology and regrets that due to the newly arisen circumstances he cannot come, since in principle he never does public appearances without the permission of the local ordinary.” The apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Medjugorje have not been acknowledged as authentic by the Vatican. Officials are still monitoring events but have said in the past that it was not necessarily the Vatican’s role to issue an official judgment on the purported apparitions there. The Vatican has discouraged dioceses or parishes from organising official pilgrimages to Medjugorje.
Drivers urged to follow road to heaven
THEVATICAN issued a set of “Ten Commandments” for drivers this week, warning
them to avoid the sins of road rage. Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road , prepared by the Vatican’s office for migrants, urges road-users to avoid “impoliteness, rude gestures, cursing, blasphemy, loss of sense of responsibility or deliberate infringement of the highway code”.
The document recommends that drivers make the sign of the cross before setting off and say the rosary along the way. The rosary is particularly well-suited to recitation by all in the car, it says, since its “rhythm and gentle repetition does not distract the driver’s attention.”
The “Ten Commandments” include “You shall not kill”, “Be charitable and help your neighbour in need, especially victims of accidents”, “Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fit condition to do so” and “On the road, protect the more vulnerable party”.
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