Interview With Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos

Author: Gianluca Biccini

Interview With Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos

Gianluca Biccini

A two-fold use of the one Roman rite

The following is the translation of an interview that Cardinal Darío Castrillión Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei", granted to the Italian daily edition of L'Osservatore Romano and published on 28 March [2008]. 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 Castrillión Hoyos, 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 and sculpture".

"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 Bishops?

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 ancient liturgy.

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 communion"?

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 ceaseless change?

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 Council Documents.

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 traditional doctrine.

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 liturgy?

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.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
9 April 2008, page 4

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