Interview With Leader of Traditional Mass Community
By Alexandre Ribeiro
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, 9 APRIL 2008 (ZENIT)
The bishop of a Brazilian
community that celebrates the Mass according to the 1962 missal contends
that abuses in the liturgy can be attributed to the lack of a serious
Bishop Fernando Arêas Rifan, apostolic administrator of the St. John
Maria Vianney Personal Apostolic Administration in Brazil, spoke with
ZENIT about the richness of the extraordinary form of the Mass. The use
of that form was extended with Benedict XVI's "Summorum Pontificum,"
released last July.
The St. John Maria Vianney group was founded by Bishop Licínio Rangel,
who was ordained a bishop without papal approval in 1991 by bishops
themselves illicitly ordained by Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the
Society of St. Pius X.
Bishop Rangel later asked to return to full communion and expressed the
necessary dispositions. He received a letter granting his wish from Pope
John Paul II and returned to the Church in a ceremony in 2002, presided
over by the Pontiff and Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, president of
the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.
Today, the apostolic administration continues serving Catholics in
Brazil devoted to the traditional Mass, and have full communion with the
Q: In your apostolic administration, the ancient Roman Rite is
celebrated, the one preceding the reform of 1970. What are the
characteristics of this type of Mass?
Bishop Rifan: There are various motives for this love, for this
preference and the conservation of the extraordinary form of the Roman
liturgy. Then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, our current Pope, speaking with
the Chilean bishops in Santiago, July 13, 1988, summarized it this way:
"Even though there are numerous motives that could have brought a great
number of faithful to find refuge in the traditional liturgy, the most
important is that they find preserved there the dignity of the sacred."
In fact, because of its richness, beauty, elevation, nobility and
ceremonial solemnity, because of its sense of the sacred and
reverential, because of its sense of mystery, its greater precision and
thereby offering more security and protection against abuses, without
leaving space for ambiguities, for the liberty, creativity, adaptations,
reductions and manipulations, as Pope John Paul II lamented in the
encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia"
and being for us the best liturgical expression of the Eucharistic
dogmas and solid spiritual nourishment, it is one of the treasures of
Catholic liturgy, with which we express our love and our communion with
the holy Church. And the Holy See recognizes this adhesion of ours as
Q: Could the ancient form of the Mass be more promoted in the life of
the Church, though as an extraordinary form, as is indicated and
permitted by "Summorum Pontificum"? What benefits would this bring?
Bishop Rifan: This was already the desire of the Holy Father Pope John
Paul II, when he affirmed in his [letter issued] "motu proprio"
"Ecclesia Dei" on July 2, 1988. "To all those Catholic faithful who feel
attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin
tradition, I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial
communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for
their rightful aspirations. […] Moreover, respect must everywhere be
shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin
liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the
directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for the use
of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962."
This desire has been reinforced and amplified to the entire world by
Benedict XVI with the [letter issued] "motu proprio" "Summorum
The benefits of the reintroduction and the diffusion in the Church of
this extraordinary form of the Roman Rite have been mentioned by the
current Pope in his "motu proprio," when he says that in the celebration
of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI, this sacredness that
attracts many to the ancient tradition could be manifested in a more
intense way. This is exactly what has been emphasized by Cardinal
[Francis] George of Chicago
"The Holy Father himself, a while ago, called our attention to the
beauty and the depth of the St. Pius V Missal. […] The liturgy of 1962
is an authorized rite of the Catholic Church and a valuable font of
liturgical understanding for all the other rites. This liturgy belongs
to the entire Church as a vehicle of the Spirit that should radiate as
well in the celebration of the third typical edition of the current
in the Prologue of the 2002 Proceedings, "Liturgy and the Sacred," from
the International Center for Liturgical Studies.
When I participated in August 2007 in the Oxford Congress, a gathering
to teach the celebration of the Mass in the extraordinary form to more
that 60 diocesan priests from the United Kingdom there present,
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham said in the solemn opening Mass
to the priests participating that, after having learned the Mass in the
ancient form, even if in their parishes they would celebrate Mass in the
current rite of Paul VI, they would anyway celebrate it better. I think
that is a benefit backed by the Pope in his "motu proprio" "Summorum
Q: What indications do you give for avoiding scarce attention and
respect for the liturgy?
Bishop Rifan: Speaking of the abuses following the liturgical reform,
the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lamented that the liturgy degenerated
into a show, in which they seek to make religion interesting with the
help of stylish elements, with momentary successes in the group of the
liturgical "manufacturers" [in the] introduction to the book "La Réforme
Liturgique" by Monsignor Klaus Gamber, page 6 and 8.
Cardinal Edouard Gagnon was of the same opinion. "It cannot be ignored
that the [liturgical] reform has given rise to many abuses and have led
in a certain degree to the disappearance of respect for the sacred. This
fact should be unfortunately admitted and it excuses a good number of
those people who have distanced themselves from our Church and their
former parish communities [in] "Fundamentalism and Conservatism,"
interview with Cardinal Gagnon, "Zitung
Römisches," November-December 1993, page 35.
I think that the central point of the abuses was indicated by Cardinal
Ratzinger himself: the door left open to a false creativity on the part
of the celebrants [in an] interview in "L'homme Nouveau," October 2001.
Behind this is the lack of a serious spirituality, [the idea that] to
attract the people, novelties should be invented. Holy Mass is
attractive in itself, because of its sacredness and mystery. Deep down,
we're dealing with the diminishment of faith in the Eucharistic
mysteries and an attempt to replace it with novelties and creativity.
When the celebrant wants to become the protagonist of the liturgical
action, abuses begin. It is forgotten that the center of the Mass is
The current secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Bishop
Albert Malcolm Ranjith, laments: "Holy Mass is a sacrifice, gift,
mystery, independently of the priest who celebrates it. It is important,
I would say fundamental, that the priest draws back: The protagonist of
the Mass is Christ. I don't understand, therefore, the Eucharistic
celebrations transformed into shows with dances, songs or applause, as
lamentably happens many times with the Novus Ordo."
The solution to the abuse is in the norms given by the Magisterium,
above all in the document "Redemptionis Sacramentum" of March 25, 2004,
which asks that "everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that
the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and
every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly
corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every
one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favoritism"
But, as Bishop Ranjith says, "there are a lot of documents [against
these abuses] that unfortunately have remained a dead letter, forgotten
in libraries full of dust, or even worse, thrown into the waste basket."