Outside parish churches and subject to the approval of a bishop. In the name of ecclesial communion, Pope Francis published this Friday a motu proper (Papal decree) strongly restricting masses according to the ancient (or Tridentine) rite, subjecting them to the authorization of each bishop and prohibiting them from being held in parish churches.
These celebrations (in Latin and with the priest with his back to the faithful) use a missal from 1962 and presuppose, as a rule, a rejection of the reforms introduced by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), whose conciliar spirit Francis has sought to recover, by via measures such as greater openness to divorced and remarried people and to unions between people of the same sex, in addition to a posture that points to a less clerical Church, closer to the bases and more open to the peripheries.
In a letter to bishops around the world accompanying the papal decree called delivery of keeper, Francisco maintains that, despite being well intentioned, the decisions taken by John Paul II and later by Benedict XVI to liberalize that rite, and that they were sheltered in the idea that it was necessary to avoid divisions and foster communion in the Church with the more traditionalist groups ended up being instrumentalized. “Unfortunately, the pastoral intention of my predecessors (…) to restore the unity of the ecclesial body with regard to the various liturgical sensibilities was used to increase distances, harden differences and encourage misunderstandings that hurt the Church and block its path, exposing it to the risk of divisions”, the papal document reads.
Declaring himself saddened, the Pope also regrets what he considers to be an “instrumental” use of the 1962 missal by the more traditionalist Catholic movements, whose action has been characterized by a “growing rejection” not only of the liturgical reform, but of the very Second Vatican Council, which those movements tend to consider to have embodied “a betrayal of the true Church.”
These masses, abroad and in Portugal, take place within movements such as the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, a traditionalist group that has broken with Rome since the excommunication of its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, in 1988. During his pontificate, in a gesture designed to facilitate a reunification, Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of the four bishops who had been ordained by Lefebvre in absentia from Rome, in addition to extending the possibility of celebrating masses according to that rite.
More recently, Pope Francis himself showed signs of willingness to reconciliation by allowing any Catholic to confess to a priest in that society and accepting as regular the marriages celebrated in that context. However, in 2018, that priestly fraternity elected as the new general superior a priest, the Italian Davide Pagliarini, who opposes reunification with the Catholic Church.
“The close relationship between the choice of celebrations according to liturgical books prior to the Second Vatican Council and the rejection of the Church and its institutions is increasingly evident in the words and attitudes of many names of what they consider ‘the true Church” , Francis now comes to say, considering this “behavior that contradicts communion”. In view of this, and after consulting bishops around the world, Francis has now determined that the different groups that celebrate the Eucharist by the ancient rite can continue to do so, provided that it is outside the parish churches and with the consent of the bishops. They are also advised not to authorize the creation of new groups in addition to the existing ones, and it is up to them to verify whether or not these respect the legitimacy of the liturgical reform and the Second Vatican Council. Likewise, priests ordained henceforth will not be able to celebrate the Tridentine Mass without authorization from the bishop, who is obliged to consult the Holy See. And priests who already do so are subject to equal authorization in order to continue to do so.
In Portugal, these masses are celebrated all over the country, almost always in private chapels or other discreet places. In Lisbon, they are celebrated every day in the Church of São Nicolau, with the authorization of the Cardinal Patriarch, D. Manuel Clemente.