A two-fold use of
the one Roman rite
The following is
the translation of an interview that Cardinal Darío
President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei",
granted to the Italian daily edition of L'Osservatore
Romano and published on 28 March . Pope John Paul II
created the Commission in 1988 to facilitate the full
ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, Communities or
individual Religious who had been associated in some way
with the Fraternity founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre,
and who desired to remain united with the Successor of Peter
in the Catholic Church.
"Benedict XVI's Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum
on the use of the Roman liturgy prior to the Reform of 1970
is even bringing some non-Catholics into full communion with
Rome. Requests for communion have been arriving since the
Pope renewed the possibility of celebrating in accordance
with the ancient rite", said Cardinal Darío
President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei".
In this interview subsequent to its publication in the
Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the Cardinal explains the
content of the Papal Document. He also stresses its
importance as a means of preserving the treasure of the
liturgy that dates back to St. Gregory the Great and of
renewing dialogue with those who were estranged from the
Church of Rome because of the liturgical reform.
This Document's publication in the Acta preceded
by a few days the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI had
appointed as Vice-President of "Ecclesia Dei" Mons. Camille
Perl, former Secretary, and as Secretary, Mons. Mario
Marini, former Adjunct Secretary.
The Letter, issued Motu Proprio, does not refer to
the current, usual or ordinary form of the Eucharistic
liturgy, published in the Roman Missal by Paul VI and
re-edited on two occasions by John Paul II. Rather, it refers to
the use of the extraordinary form, presented in the
Missale Romanum published in 1962, prior to the Council,
with the authorization of John XXIII.
It is not a question of two different rites but rather of
a twofold use of one and the same Roman rite. The Colombian
Cardinal explained that it is the celebrative form that has
been "in use for more than 1,400 years. It was this rite,
which we may call Gregorian, that inspired the Masses
composed by Palestrina, Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, as well
as splendid cathedrals and marvellous works of art, painting
"Thanks to the Motu Proprio, many people have
asked to return to full communion and some have already done
so", the President of "Ecclesia Dei" added.
"In Spain, the 'Oasis of Jesus the Priest', an entire
cloistered monastery of 30 Sisters led by their Founder, was
recognized and regularized by the Pontifical Commission;
there are also cases of American, German and French groups
whose regularization is under way. Finally, individual
priests and many lay people who seek reconciliation are
contacting us, writing to us and calling us, and besides
this, many other members of the faithful express their
pleasure and gratitude to the Pope for the Motu Proprio".
Some have accused the Pope of wishing to impose a
liturgical model in which the language and gestures of the
rite seem to be exclusively reserved for the priest, while
the faithful have no part and thus are excluded from a
direct relationship with God.
For instance, on the occasion of the Baptism of the Lord,
which Benedict XVI celebrated in the Sistine Chapel, he
faced the Crucifix. The Pope celebrated in Italian in
accordance with the usual form, which does not exclude the
possibility of celebrating facing the altar —and not
versus populum — and also provides for the celebration
in Latin. We must remember that the ordinary form is the
Mass that is normally said by all priests in accordance with
the post-Conciliar Reform, whereas the extraordinary form is
the Mass that preceded the liturgical reform, which today
can be celebrated, in accordance with the content of the
Motu Proprio, by all and was never prohibited.
Some criticism, however, appears to come even from
Some have difficulty with it but they are the rare
exceptions since the majority is in agreement with the Pope.
Rather, it is the practical difficulties that are expressed.
It must be made quite clear: this is not a return to the
past but progress, for there are now two treasures instead
of only one. This treasure is therefore offered with respect
for the rights of those who are particularly attached to the
Common sense is needed here. For example, it may happen
that a priest does not possess sufficient training or
cultural sensitivity. It is enough to think of priests who
come from linguistic areas that are very different from the
Latin one. Yet it is not always a matter of rejection: a
real difficulty has arisen and it must be overcome.
Our Pontifical Commission is planning to organize a form
of assistance to seminaries, dioceses and Bishops'
Conferences. Another prospect to be examined is to broadcast
information through the media for learning about this
extraordinary form of Mass with all the theological,
spiritual and artistic riches that are connected with the
ancient liturgy. In addition, it seems important to involve
groups of priests who already use the extraordinary form and
who offer either to celebrate or to describe and teach the
celebration of Mass in accordance with the 1962 Missal.
So the problem does not really exist?
It is rather a controversy that stems from a certain lack
of knowledge. Some people, for example, ask permission to
celebrate it as though it were a concession or an
exceptional case, but this is not necessary. The Pope has
been clear. A common error some individuals and several
journalists make is the belief that the use of the Latin
language exclusively concerns the ancient rite, whereas, on
the contrary, it is also provided for in Paul VI's Missal.
With the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum,
the Pope offers all priests the possibility of celebrating
Mass also in the traditional form and all the faithful the
possibility of exercising their right to have this rite when
the conditions specified in the Motu Proprio exist.
What has been the reaction of groups such as the
Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X which refuses the
celebration of Mass in accordance with the novus ordo
established after Vatican Council II?
Lefebvrians have said from the outset that the ancient
form was never abolished. It is clear that it was never
abrogated, although prior to the publication of the Motu
Proprio many believed that it was prohibited. Now,
instead, it can be offered to all the faithful who desire
it, in accordance with the circumstances. But it is also
clear that if no properly prepared priest is available it
cannot be offered, since it is not only a question of Latin
but also of knowing the ancient tradition as such.
Certain differences should be noted: the longer pause of
silence for the faithful which encourages contemplation of
the mystery and personal prayer. Today, there is a need —
which is not only religious — for our culture to rediscover
pauses of silence.
I recall that as a Bishop I once took part in a
high-level business management course where the need was
discussed for the manager to have a semi-dark room available
to which he could retire to think before making decisions.
Silence and contemplation are also necessary qualities
today, especially when it is a question of God's mystery.
Eight months have passed since the Document's
promulgation. is it true that it has also met with
widespread approval in other ecclesiastical situations?
The Pope has offered the Church a treasure that is
spiritual, cultural, religious and catholic. We have also
received letters expressing approval from Prelates of
Orthodox Churches, from members of the Anglican Communion
and from Protestants. Finally, there are certain priests of
the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X who are seeking, as
individuals, to regularize their position. Some of them have
already signed the formula of adherence. And it has been
reported that certain traditionalist lay faithful close to
the Fraternity have begun to go to the Masses in the ancient
rite that are offered in the churches of their diocese.
How can excommunicated people return to "full
Excommunication concerns only the four Bishops; they were
excommunicated because they were ordained without the Pope's
mandate and against his will, whereas the priests have just
been suspended. The Masses they celebrate are undoubtedly
valid but not licit; thus, participation is not advised
except on Sundays when there are no other alternatives. Of
course, neither priests nor faithful are excommunicated. In
this regard, I would like to reaffirm the importance of
reliable information in order to judge them correctly.
Do you not fear that the attempt to bring into the
Church men and women who do not recognize the Second Vatican
Council might lead to alienating members of the faithful who
instead see the Second Vatican Council as a compass for the
navigation of Peter's Barque, especially in these times of
First of all, in my opinion the problem regarding the
Council is not as serious as it might seem. Indeed, the
Bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, directed
by Mons. Bernard Fellay, have expressly recognized Vatican
II as an Ecumenical Council, and Mons. Fellay reaffirmed
this at a meeting with John Paul II and more explicitly at
an Audience with Pope Benedict XVI on 29 August 2005. Nor
can we forget that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre signed all the
I think that their criticism of the Council concerns
instead the clarity of certain texts, a lack of which leaves
the way open to interpretations that do not agree with
The greatest difficulties are in the realm of
interpretation or have to do with certain ecumenical
actions, but not with the doctrine of the Second Vatican
Council. It is a matter of theological discussions that can
be held in the Church within which, in fact, various
discussions of the interpretation of conciliar texts take
place; these discussions could also continue with the groups
that return to full communion.
Is the Church therefore also holding out her hand
to them through this new Motu Proprio on the ancient
Yes, without a doubt, because it is precisely in the
liturgy that the full meaning of catholicity is expressed
and is a source of unity. I very much like the novus ordo
that I celebrate every day. After the post-Conciliar
liturgical Reform I no longer celebrated in accordance with
the 1962 Missal. Today, by returning occasionally to the
extraordinary rite, I too have discovered the riches of the
ancient liturgy which the Pope wants to keep alive by
preserving that age-old form of the Roman Tradition.
We must never forget that the supreme reference point of
the liturgy, as in life, is always Christ. We must not be
afraid, therefore, to turn towards him in the liturgical
rite, to turn towards the Crucifix together with the
faithful in order to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice in an
unbloody manner, as the Council of Trent described the Mass.