Tuesday, June 11, 2024

A Documentary on the 1998 Ecclesia Dei Roman Pilgrimage

In October of 1998, for the tenth anniversary of Pope St John Paul II’s motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, a great pilgrimage to Rome was organized by the Fraternity of St Peter, which also celebrated its tenth anniversary that year, in cooperation with several other groups, lay, religious, and clerical, dedicated to the celebration of the traditional Roman Rite. Just today, Peter has posted to his YouTube channel this documentary about it, which has hitherto been available only to those who managed to keep their old VHS players functioning.

Cardinal Ratzinger features very prominently here, since he spoke at one of the conferences held during the pilgrimage, and we can see clearly how Summorum Pontificum was the fruit of his long meditation on the problem of continuity and rupture (not just liturgical continuity and rupture), and what they mean for the life of the Church. He contends that the essential problem in finding a way for the traditional rite to continue to exist in the Church lies in the education of the bishops, and it is very heartening to see that his prediction that it would be resolved in the better education of a new generation of bishops has largely come true.

Among the other notable speakers are Fr Joseph Bisig, the founder of the FSSP, and his successor Fr Arnaud Devillers, who I believe was at the time superior of their American district; the late Michael Davies, one of the great defenders of the traditional liturgy in the mad early post-Conciliar years; His Eminence Alphonse Cardinal Stickler, who during the pilgrimage celebrated a Pontifical High Mass for the feast of Christ the King (back when such Masses were extremely rare); and His Excellency James Timlin, bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania, another staunch supporter of the traditional Mass. At 30:00, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, founder of then-very-new Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, makes a brief appearance.

I was present for most of the major events of this pilgrimage, including the Mass celebrated by Bishop Timlin at the North American College, and Cardinal Stickler’s Pontifical Mass; this was also the occasion on which I first met our Ambrosian expert Nicola de’ Grandi. It was an exciting time, one which I look back on with joy and gratitude, and confidence that the great pastoral wisdom and charity of the bishops who participated in it will most assuredly prevail again someday in the Church.

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