Pope Francis during press conference on the flight from Brazil to Rome

I first read Sandro Magister’s column printed below and I was shocked.  I seemed as though Pope Francis was possibly going to undo all that Pope Benedict had achieved with his motu proprio,  Summorum Pontificum, in which he decreed the freedom of everyone to celebrate and participate in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  But, then on further reflection and upon reading Pope Francis’ remarks about the liturgy of the Orthodox Church during his press conference on board the flight from Brazil to Rome, I am not so sure.  I have two reasons for my very limited optimism.  First, the decree of the Congregation for Religious that Sandro Magister writes about came about because of group of dissidents in the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate had protested to the Congregation of the Religious that their superiors were forcing them to attend Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary Form.  The Congregation, with the approval of Pope Francis, solved the problem of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate by forbidding the celebration of the Extraordinary Form.  That, to me, was the wrong solution.  It would have been better and less drastic to work out an arrangement requiring the celebration of the Mass in the Ordinary Form as well as the Extraordinary Form.  But the Congregation did not do that.  It is important to note that the ban on the Extraordinary form was the work of the Congregation for Religious and perhaps Pope Francis, in giving his approval to the decree did not realize in the midst of his preparation for the World Youth Day what the full repercussion of the decree would be, both for the Franciscans of the Immaculate and the entire Church.  Pope Francis, in his efforts to be a simple and humble pope, made have made his first big liturgical mistake in approving such a simple solution to a very complex problem of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

[Disclosure:  I regularly celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass in my private chapel.]

–   Abyssum



July 30, 2013, Tuesday — The Pope’s press conference, complete transcription

BY Dr. Robert Moynihan

The Moynihan Letters (

Toward the end of the interview, a Russian journalist asks the Pope to comment on the 1025th anniversary, currently being celebrated in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, of the baptism of the Rus’, the ancient Russian people, centered at the time (988 A.D.) in Kiev.

In response, the Pope makes a very positive judgement on the liturgy of the Orthodox. To my knowledge, this response has been little noted.

“They have conserved that pristine liturgy, no?” Pope Francis says. “So beautiful. We [i.e., the Latin Christians] have lost a bit the sense of adoration, they conserve it, they praise God, they adore God, they sing, time does not count. The center is God and that is a richness that I would like to emphasize on this occasion as you ask me this question.”

(Original Italian: “Hanno conservato quella pristina liturgia, no?, tanto bella. Noi abbiamo perso un po’ il senso dell’adorazione, loro lo conservano, loro lodano Dio, loro adorano Dio, cantano, il tempo non conta. Il centro è Dio e quella è una ricchezza che vorrei dire in questa occasione in cui Lei mi fa questa domanda.”)

At a moment when many are continuing to wonder about Francis’ attitude toward the old liturgy of the Church, it is important to note these words of the Pope, which as far as I know have not been noted by any journalist commenting on this long interview.


For the First Time, Francis Contradicts Benedict

He has touched upon the sore spot of the Mass in the ancient rite. Ratzinger permitted its celebration for all. Bergoglio has prohibited it for one religious order that favored it

by Sandro Magister

ROME, July 29, 2013 – One point on which Jorge Mario Bergoglio was eagerly expected  to weigh in, after his election as pope, was that of the Mass in the ancient rite.

There were those who predicted that Pope Francis would not distance himself from the stance of his predecessor. Who had liberalized the celebration of the Mass in the ancient rite as an “extraordinary” form of the modern rite, with the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” of July 7, 2007:

> Benedict XVI Liberalizes the Ancient Rite of the Mass – And Explains Why

and with the subsequent instruction “Universæ Ecclesiæ” of May 13, 2011:

> Two Masses for a Single Church

And there were instead those who prognosticated on the part of Francis a restriction – or even a cancellation – of the possibility of celebrating the Mass with the rite prior to Vatican Council II, even at the cost of contradicting the decisions of Benedict XVI with him still alive.

To read the decree issued by the Vatican congregation for religious shortly before the voyage of Francis in Brazil, with the explicit approval of the pope himself, one must agree more with the latter than with the former.

The decree bears the date of July 11, 2013, the protocol number 52741/2012, and the signatures of the prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, a focolarino,  and of the secretary of the same congregation, Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, a Franciscan.

Braz de Aviz is the only high-ranking official in the curia of Brazilian nationality, and because of this he has accompanied Francis on his voyage to Rio de Janeiro. He has a reputation as a progressive, although that of a scatterbrain fits him better. And he will probably be one of the first to go when the reform of the curia announced by Francis takes shape.

Rodríguez Carballo instead enjoys the pope’s complete trust. His promotion as second-in-command of the congregation was backed by Francis himself at the beginning of his pontificate.

It is difficult, therefore, to think that pope Bergoglio was unaware of what he was approving when he was presented with the decree before its publication.

The decree installs an apostolic commissioner – in the person of the Capuchin Fidenzio Volpi – at the head of all the communities of the congregation of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

And this in itself is cause for astonishment. Because the Franciscans of the Immaculate are one of the most flourishing religious communities born in the Catholic Church in recent decades, with male and female branches, with many young vocations, spread over several continents and with a mission in Argentina as well.

They want to be faithful to tradition, in full respect for the magisterium of the Church. So much so that in their communities they celebrate Masses both in the ancient rite and in the modern rite, as moreover do hundreds of religious communities around the world – the Benedictines of Norcia, to give just one example – applying the spirit and the letter of the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” of Benedict XVI.

But precisely this was contested by a core group of internal dissidents, who appealed to the Vatican authorities complaining of the excessive propensity of their congregation to celebrate the Mass in the ancient rite, with the effect of creating exclusion and opposition within the communities, of undermining internal unity and, worse, of weakening the more general “sentire cum Ecclesia.”

The Vatican authorities responded by sending an apostolic visitor one year ago. And now comes the appointment of the commissioner.

But what is most astonishing are the last five lines of the decree of July 11:

“In addition to the above, the Holy Father Francis has directed that every religious of the congregation of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate is required to celebrate the liturgy according to the ordinary rite and that, if the occasion should arise, the use of the extraordinary form (Vetus Ordo) must be explicitly authorized by the competent authorities, for every religious and/or community that makes the request.”

The astonishment stems from the fact that what is decreed contradicts the dispositions given by Benedict XVI, which for the celebration of the Mass in the ancient rite “sine populo” demand no previous request for authorization whatsoever:

“Ad talem celebrationem secundum unum alterumve Missale, sacerdos nulla eget licentia, nec Sedis Apostolicae nec Ordinarii sui” (1).

While for Masses “cum populo” they set out a few conditions, but always guaranteeing the freedom to celebrate.

In general, against a decree of a Vatican congregation it is possible to have recourse to the supreme tribunal of the apostolic signatura, today headed by a cardinal, the American Raymond Leo Burke, considered a friend by the traditionalists.

But if the decree is the object of approval in a specific form on the part of the pope, as it seems to be in this case, recourse is not admitted.

The Franciscans of the Immaculate will have to comply with the prohibition on celebrating the Mass in the ancient rite beginning Sunday, August 11.

And now what will happen, not only among them but in the whole Church?

It was the conviction of Benedict XVI that “the two forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching.” He had explained this in the heartfelt letter to the bishops of the whole world with which he had accompanied the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum”:

> “With great trust and hope…”

But from now on this is no longer the case, at least not for all. For the Franciscans of the Immaculate, forced to celebrate the Mass only in the modern form, there remains just one way to take to heart what Benedict XVI also hoped: to “demonstrate” in this form as well, “more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.”

The fact is that one pillar of the pontificate of Joseph Ratzinger has been cracked. By an exception that many fear – or hope – will soon become the rule.


(1) Curiously, even six years after its publication, the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” of Benedict XVI continues to be present on the website of the Holy See only in two languages, and these among the least-known: Latin and Hungarian.


The website of the Franciscans of the Immaculate:

> Francescani dell’Immacolata


There is a thorough pro-and-con dispute over the “Summorum Pontificum” in a book hot off the presses by Professor Pietro De Marco of the University of Florence and the liturgist Andrea Grillo:

A. Grillo, P. De Marco, “Ecclesia universa o introversa?”, Edizioni San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo, 2013.

In criticizing the motu proprio of Benedict XVI, Grillo rejects even its prescriptive validity. Because in his judgment, the missal prior to Vatican Council II has been abrogated. And therefore there is no longer any reason that could justify its use.

Grillo teaches sacramental and liturgical theology at the Pontifical Atheneum of Saint Anselm in Rome.


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
This entry was posted in LITURGY, POPE BENEDICT XVI, POPE FRANCIS. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Curt Stoller says:

    I miss the Latin Mass so much and I can’t even tell you how much. I am so tempted to demonize everyone involved in what has happened. I read somewhere that some in the Vatican fear that the dominant culture of Calvinism in America has somewhat tinted the Catholic theology we practice here. Certainly a strain of Calvinism which teaches the “total depravity” of human nature after the Fall can be traced back in some way to Gnosticism, Manicheanism, Catharism, Albigensianism and so on. It can be so easy for me to see things and people as “all bad” or “all good” or “almost all bad” or “almost all good.” But I feel I must resist this Calvinist tendency in my thought. I must confess to feeling good at times when I castigate the enemies of the Church in oversimplifications and over-generalizations. But I try to avoid this. And I think the opposite tendency of Rousseau had a lot to do with what happened to the Latin Mass.

    On the subject of what happened to the beautiful Latin Mass, I find myself unable to avoid a certain Calvinist species of righteous indignation. I sorely miss the Latin Mass. I feel we have cheated our young people somehow as if we tore down all the art in the Louvre and replaced it with finger paintings [no offense to finger paintings which have their place].

  2. I am exceptionally demoralized by the way that this man’s words have been depicted in the media by a homosexually frenzied press, and perhaps by the words themselves.

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