Address to the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales
London – 14th June 2008
Mr Chairman, Reverend Monsignori and Fathers, Ladies and Gentlemen;
I am grateful for your kind invitation and for your warm welcome. It is a pleasure to be present with you today in London and to address the annual general meeting of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.
I look forward to the joy of celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the great, historic and beautiful Westminster Cathedral for you this afternoon.
Today I would like to speak about three related subjects.
1. The first thing that I wish to say is that I appreciate the work which the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales has undertaken in the past four decades. You have worked with and under your bishops, at times without all of the results which you desired. Yet in all that you have done you have remained faithful to the Holy See and to the successor of Saint Peter. And you have been loyal during a very difficult time for the Church – a time that has been especially trying for those who love and appreciate the riches of her ancient liturgy.
Quite evidently these years have not been without many sufferings, but Our Blessed Lord knows them and will, in his Divine Providence, bring about much good from your sacrifices and from the sacrifices of those members of the Latin Mass Society who have not lived to be here today. To all of you, on behalf of the Church, I say: “thank you for remaining faithful to the Church and to the Vicar of Christ; thank you for not allowing your love for the classical Roman liturgy to lead you outside of communion with the Vicar of Christ!”
I also say, “Take heart!” for it is obvious from the many young people in England and Wales who love the Church’s ancient liturgy that you have done very well in preserving and handing on a love for this liturgy to your children.
2. Secondly, I wish to speak about the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of our beloved Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. I know what great joy the publication of Summorum Pontificum brought to your members and indeed to many faithful Catholics around the world. In response to the prayers and sufferings of so many people in these past four decades, Almighty God has raised up for us a Supreme Pontiff who is very sensitive to your concerns. Pope Benedict XVI knows and deeply appreciates the importance of the ancient liturgical rites for the Church – for both the Church of today and for the Church of tomorrow. That is why he issued a juridical document – a Motu Proprio – which establishes legal freedom for the older rites throughout the Church. It is important to understand that Summorum Pontificum establishes a new juridical reality in the Church.
It gives rights to the ordinary faithful and to priests which must be respected by those in authority. The Holy Father is aware that in different places around the world many requests from priests and lay faithful who desired to celebrate according to the ancient rites were often not acted upon. That is why he has now authoritatively established that to celebrate according to the more ancient form of the liturgy – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as well the sacraments and other liturgical rites – is a juridical right, and not just a privilege accorded to all.
Certainly this must be done in harmony with both ecclesiastical law and ecclesiastical superiors, but superiors also must recognise that these rights are now firmly established in the law of the Church by the Vicar of Christ himself. It is a treasure that belongs to the whole Catholic Church and which should be widely available to all of Christ’s faithful. This means that parish priests and bishops must accept the petitions and the requests of the faithful who ask for it and that priests and bishops must do all that they can to provide this great liturgical treasure of the Church’s tradition for the faithful.
In this period immediately following the publication of the Motu Proprio our most immediate task is to provide for the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite where it is most desired by the faithful and where their “legitimate aspirations” have not yet been met. On the one hand no priest should be forced to celebrate according to the extraordinary form against his will. On the other hand those priests who do not wish to celebrate according to the 1962 Roman Missal should be generous in meeting the requests of the faithful who desire it.
As I see it, two factors are necessary. 1. It is first of all important to find a centrally located church, convenient to the greatest number of the faithful who have requested this Mass. Obviously, it must be a church where the parish priest is willing to welcome these faithful from his own and surrounding parishes. 2. It is crucial that there be priests willing to celebrate according to the 1962 Roman Missal and thus to provide this important pastoral service on a weekly Sunday basis. Often there may be one or more priests in a given deanery or section of a diocese who would be willing and even desirous of celebrating this Mass. Bishops need to be sensitive to such pastoral provisions and to facilitate them. This is a fundamental intention of Summorum Pontificum. It is particularly sad where priests are prohibited from celebrating the extraordinary form of the Mass because of restrictive legislative measures which have been taken and which run counter to the Holy Father’s intentions and thus to the universal law of the Church.
In this regard I am also pleased to commend the Latin Mass Society for its provision of the training session for priests at Merton College, Oxford, last summer, allowing many priests unfamiliar with the usus antiquior to learn how to celebrate it. I am very pleased to give my blessing to this initiative which will take place again this summer.
Let me say this plainly: the Holy Father wants the ancient use of the Mass to become a normal occurrence in the liturgical life of the Church so that all of Christ’s faithful – young and old – can become familiar with the older rites and draw from their tangible beauty and transcendence. The Holy Father wants this for pastoral reasons as well as for theological ones. In his letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum Pope Benedict wrote that:
"In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place."
3. This brings me to my third point. You are rightly convinced that the usus antiquior is not a museum piece, but a living expression of Catholic worship. If it is living, we must also expect it to develop. Our Holy Father is also of this conviction. As you know, he chose motu proprio – that is on his own initiative – to alter the text of the prayer pro Iudæis in the Good Friday liturgy. The intention of the prayer was in no way weakened, but a formulation was provided which respected sensitivities.
Likewise, as you also know, Summorum Pontificum has also provided for the Liturgy of the Word to be proclaimed in the vernacular without being first read by the celebrant in Latin. Today’s Pontifical Mass, of course, will have the readings solemnly chanted in Latin, but for less solemn celebrations the Liturgy of the Word may be proclaimed directly in the language of the people. This is already a concrete instance of what our Holy Father wrote in his letter accompanying the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum:
"the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal. The “Ecclesia Dei” Commission, in contact with various bodies devoted to the usus antiquior, will study the practical possibilities in this regard."
Naturally we will be happy for your input in this important matter. I simply ask you not to be opposed in principle to the necessary adaptation which our Holy Father has called for.
This brings me to another important point. I am aware that the response of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” with regard to the observance of Holy Days of obligation has caused a certain amount of disturbance in some circles. It should be noted that the dates of these Holy Days remain the same in both the Missal of 1962 and the Missal of 1970. When the Holy See has given the Episcopal Conference of a given country permission to move certain Holy Days to the following Sunday, this should be observed by all Catholics in that country. Nothing prevents the celebration of the Feast of the Ascension, for example, on the prior Thursday, but it should be clear that this is not a Mass of obligation and that the Mass of the Ascension should also be celebrated on the following Sunday. This is a sacrifice which I ask you to make with joy as a sign of your unity with the Catholic Church in your country.
Finally I ask your prayers for those of us called to assist the Holy Father in Rome in this delicate work of facilitating the Church’s ancient liturgical tradition. Please be patient with us: we are very few and there is much work to be done. And there are many questions to be studied and sometimes we may make mistakes!
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, intercede for all in this land which is so beautifully called “the Dowry of Our Lady,” and through her prayers may all Christ’s faithful come to draw ever more deeply from the great riches of the Church’s sacred liturgy in all of its forms.
Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos
Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei
Here also is the full text of the homily from the Mass itself: Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos Homily