Sunday, January 18, 2009

Another Variant on the Privilege of Pontificals in Milan

One of the faithful attached to the Ambrosian rite Mass in Legnano has been keeping a photo album of the goings-on there.

I was intrigued by a recent series of photographs from an Ambrosian rite Mass there on January 6th (which also appeared on Rinascimento Sacro) which showed a priest, Msgr. Carlo Galli, the dean of Legnano and provost of the minor Roman basilica of St. Magnus (in Legnano), vested with a mitre and wearing purple cassock.

Now let me preface this by noting that Msgr. Galli is not a bishop, so "Monsignor" is used here not in the sense it is sometimes used within Europe, which might also denote a bishop. Neither is Msgr. Galli a Canon of the Cathedral of Milan. (Many NLM readers will by now be familiar with the fact that the Canons of the Cathedral of Milan were privileged to wear pontificals and celebrate the pontifical form of the Ambrosian rite. This means they not only wear able to wear the mitre, they were also privileged to wear the other pontificals such as the episcopal dalmatic and tunic, the pectoral cross, buskins, liturgical sandals and pontifical gloves in their proper liturgical context; they likewise used the pontifical Canon Missae, praying the vesting prayers and so on.)

What first struck me about this particular instance was that while Msgr. Galli bore the mitre and purple cassock, none of the other pontificals, like the pectoral cross (which a Canon would wear), were in evidence. This highlighted a potential variance.

(You will note that the mitre is not worn for preaching, but instead the biretta.)

These things, including the use of the biretta as well as the mitre raised some questions. Accordingly, I thought I would investigate the meaning of this, and so I turned to the NLM's Ambrosian rite expert, Nicola de Grandi, who provided the necessary insights.

Nicola noted that, by a concession of Pope Pius XI, provosts of some larger parishes of the Archdiocese of Milan, including the collegiate church and Minor Roman Basilica of St. Magnus in Legnano (which Msgr. Galli is the provost of) were given the entitlement to wear the insigna of a Secret Chamberlain -- hence the purple cassock -- and to wear a simple white mitre, but not with red fringes (as is the case with regard to the mitra simplex) but rather with white fringes. This mitre could be worn by the priest when moving to and from the sacristy and sanctuary, also while sitting upon the sedilia, but was not to be used while preaching -- which explains the photo above of Msgr. Galli using the biretta during the homily. This mitre was also not to be put on and off by a deacon or subdeacon (in the solemn form of Mass), but simply by a server.

The principle here was that the mitre acted in nearly the same way that a Latin rite priest would typically wear the biretta -- simply as a type of clerical headwear.

These priests were not, however (and unlike the Canons of Milan), entitled to wear the other pontificals.

These photos then provided an opportunity to highlight another interesting variation and privilege found within the Ambrosian tradition.


It seems a further postscript is in order as this subject is likely to arouse a debate amongst some of our most ceremonially interested readership.

That debate surrounds the continued use of these privileges today; something which has arisen here before.

This debate relates to two documents, Ut Sive Sollicite and Per Instructionem which instigated a reform of choral dress in 1969-70.

Now that latter document left "the task of reducing choir dress to a simpler form" to the respective episcopal conferences, which was "given the faculty to put into effect gradually" while also "retaining what needs to be retained." What the particular decisions of individual episcopal conferences would have been would have to be individually investigated, so there may not be a generic answer to this question. (There may also be a question of how this was handled in relation to a unique See such as Milan.)

As well, the forthcoming 15th edition of the Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described by Fortescue, O'Connell and Reid makes the following note in relation to this question:
12. [...] In some places this reform of choir dress for canons has not been implemented. Where such contrary custom has continued without reprobation for more than thirty years (cf. 1983 C.I.C. 26), the unreformed choir dress and other privileges still in use may be said to be legitimate.

-- p. 56, Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described

(This new edition of The Ceremonies is due out in the first or second week of February incidentally.)

Further to that same point, it has been noted to me that these privileges of mitre and purple cassock are still retained today by the Ambrosian Provosts in the context of the modern Ambrosian liturgy.

As such, I would encourage people to not jump to the conclusion that some breach in ecclesiastical law has happened.

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