Monday, July 9, 2007

The Holy Father's Comments

Pope Benedict's own reflections on Summorum Pontificorum are worth pondering. According to Zenit:

Addressing fears of opponents of the document, the Holy Father points out that the norms do not detract from the authority of Vatican II, nor do they question the liturgical reform that the council called for.

In fact, he says, the 1962 missal "was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted."

The Pontiff explains: "At the time of the introduction of the new missal, it did not seem necessary to issue specific norms for the possible use of the earlier missal. Probably it was thought that it would be a matter of a few individual cases which would be resolved, case by case, on the local level."

Benedict XVI adds that "it soon became apparent that a good number of people remained strongly attached to this usage of the Roman Rite, which had been familiar to them from childhood."

Referring to the Society of St. Pius X, founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Pope says "fidelity to the old missal became an external mark of identity; the reasons for the break which arose over this, however, were at a deeper level."

In the apostolic letter "Ecclesia Dei," Pope John Paul II deemed the "unlawful" ordination of four bishops within the society by Archbishop Lefebvre, on June 30, 1988, a schismatic act.


Benedict XVI, however, acknowledges in his explanatory letter on "Summorum Pontificum" that others "who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them."

He adds: "This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear."

On a personal note, Benedict XVI writes to the bishops: "I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church."

Addressing a second fear that wider use of the 1962 missal "would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities," the Pope says that "this fear also strikes me as quite unfounded."

He says that the "two forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching," and asked that the bishops exercise "charity and pastoral prudence" in efforts to unite the faithful. Share

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