Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Rifan: Bring in traditionalists to save dying parishes, urges bishop

A leading traditionalist bishop has urged the bishops of England and Wales to invite traditionalist groups to take over failing parishes instead of closing down churches.

Bishop Fernando Areas Rifan of Campos, Brazil, said on Monday that the Pope’s recent document Summorum Pontificum, which lifted restrictions on the Traditional Mass, would bring about a worldwide revival in Catholic worship.

He said that in the motu proprio the Pope had encouraged the creation of “personal parishes” – special communities within a diocese that do not serve specific geographical boundaries – for the celebration of traditional Catholic worship.

Bishop Rifan, speaking exclusively to The Catholic Herald just 19 days before Summorum Pontificum comes into effect on September 14, said that the growth of such communities could represent a “new chapter” for the Church.

He said: “If a bishop has a church that faces closure, this presents a good opportunity to create personal parishes and invite traditionalists to come into his diocese.”

“They can establish these parishes and therefore open the door to traditionalists,” he added. “We are all Catholics, after all.”

The bishop’s remarks are expected to delight many British Catholics who are disgruntled with the increasing number of church closures and clustered parishes in England and Wales.

Bishop Rifan, who was in Britain this week for a special conference on the motu proprio in Oxford, said that certain groups, such as the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICRSS), could help revive flagging parishes. “Perhaps this has not happened before,” he said. “But with the motu proprio we are in a new chapter so it can start now.”

Both the FSSP and the ICRSS have confirmed that if asked by a bishop they would wherever possible send a priest to save a parish.

Bishop Rifan also said that, contrary to the suspicions of many conservative British Catholics, the bishops of England and Wales were “very open” to the Traditional Mass. “When you compare them to other bishops around the world, they are extremely accommodating,” he said.

“Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has followed the example of his predecessor, Cardinal Hume, who showed a willingness to let the traditional Mass be celebrated.”
On Tuesday Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham addressed the Summorum Pontificum conference in Oxford.

He said that Catholics should respond “attentively and consistently” to the Pope’s appeal to stop referring to two different rites when discussing the Extraordinary and Ordinary form of the Roman Rite.

“Whichever form is being used, the same mystery is being celebrated, the same rite followed,” he said.

Bishop Rifan was asked to respond to members of the faithful who remained suspicious of traditionalist Catholicism. “They need to listen to the Pope, simple as that,” he replied.

The bishop is regarded in conservative Catholic circles as a pioneer of liturgical renewal in the traditional sense. In 2002 Campos diocese, then under the control of Bishop Licinio Rangel, was given a special dispensation to freely celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary form.

The diocese was seen by Rome as a test case for the establishment of the motu proprio.

Bishop Rifan revealed that during Benedict XVI’s recent visit to Brazil, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, had told him that the Pontiff regarded Campos as an example of how tradition can work as part of the modern Church.

“He told me that the Pope had seen in Campos how we have two faithful communities, each with its own Mass, living side by side in perfect communion. We can do the same throughout the Church, no problem.”

Bishop Rifan described the Summorum Pontificum as a “real miracle”. He said: “This is a historic moment. Following the Council, there was confusion, there were arguments. We now have clearer vision of the direction of the Church.

“What the Pope has done in this document was not for the good of us, the traditionalists, as a group, but for the good of the whole Church.

“The Pope has said that the two Masses can assist each other. In the traditional Mass we can perhaps put in more participation, we could even put something in the vernacular in certain readings or even accept new prefaces for the Mass for the newly canonised saints. And the new Mass can learn from the traditional Mass the silence, the respect, the sense of mystery.

“The Pope wants to correct lots of abuses that exist in the celebrations of the new Mass.”

He also said that the motu proprio had created a strong incentive for members of the Lefebvrist Society of St Pius X (SSPX) to reconcile themselves with Rome.
“I hope they will profit from this opportunity. The Pope has opened his heart, it is up to them now to respond.

“Perhaps they are held back by a fear of causing divisions within themselves. But they are sincere and I pray that they will come back.”

But this month Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of SSPX, reportedly told La Nacion, a well-respected Argentinian newspaper, that “until things improve” the possibility of a reconciliation between his group and Rome remained remote.

He said that the Pope was willing to reach a rapprochement but faced great obstacles. “There are men in the Vatican Curia who do not work for the Pope, but for others,” he said. “[They work] for groups: one of them is the mafia looking for money in dealings with the Church. There are terrible scandals in this area.”

Source: The Catholic Herald - Britain's leading Catholic newspaper

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