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Bishops welcome Pope's call for unity - Apostolic letter Motu Proprio data
posted on 08 July 2007
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Celebrating Mass according to the John XXIII Missal of 1962 and the Paul VI Missal of 1970. What are your views of the Apostolic Letter?
Rome, October 2006 (c) Fotografia Felici
Rome, October 2006 (c) Fotografia Felici

The Bishops of England and Wales have welcomed the Apostolic letter Motu Proprio data from Pope Benedict XVI, in which he focused on the importance of unity within the Church in celebrating the Eucharist.

The Apostolic Letter set out the Norms for celebrating the Eucharist, clarifying provisions for celebrating the Mass according to the Missal published by Pope John XXIII in 1962. The Rite, commonly referred to as the Tridentine Rite, can be used from 14 September 2007 as an extraordinary form of Eucharistic celebration. The Missal published by Pope Paul VI in 1970 remains the normal form. Pope Benedict XVI described this approach as a twofold use of one and the same rite. 

The Apostolic Letter is accompanied by a letter to the Bishops in which Pope Benedict XVI states that these changes should not detract from the reform of the liturgy begun at the Second Vatican Council. However, it is important to recognise that requests come not only from people who have grown up in the older tradition of Eucharistic celebration but also that young people have discovered it and found in it a form, particularly suited to them, of encounter with the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist. 

Reflecting on unity as the focus for liturgical celebration the Pope quotes 2 Corinthians 6, 11-13: Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows. 

The Popes intention is to free Bishops from constantly having to evaluate anew how they are to respond to different situations. He states that the Bishops own authority and responsibility, both for the liturgy and for the pastoral care of the faithful is fully maintained. 

Celebrating Mass

Any priest may celebrate Mass, without the presence of others, either according to the John XXIII Missal of 1962 or the Paul VI Missal of 1970 on any day except the Sacred Triduum. No permission is needed. Those lay people who spontaneously request are allowed to be present at these private celebrations. Priests are not to exclude celebration according to the newer Missal and Pope Benedict XVI restated the principle that each particular Church be in accord with the universal Church.

In parishes where there exists a group of faithful who prefer the previous liturgical tradition, the parish priest is to accede to their requests for the celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Missal. Where a parish priest cannot satisfy a request from a group of lay faithful for whatever reason, the matter is referred to the Diocesan Bishop. Should he not be able to make provision for the celebration, the request is to be referred to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. 

Pope Benedict XVI states that fears of division within parish communities are unfounded as the new Missal will remain the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful. Diocesan Bishops may, if appropriate, erect personal parishes for celebrations according to the 1962 Missal. 

Pope Benedict has invited the Bishops to send to the Holy See an account of the working of the new Norms after three years.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor said: 

On behalf of the Bishops of England and Wales I welcome the Holy Fathers call for unity within the Church and especially towards those who are very attached to celebrating the Mass according to the Missal of 1962.

We are confident that the provisions already made throughout England and Wales under the indult granted back in 1971 go a significant way towards meeting the requirements of the new Norms. We foresee little difficulty in receiving and carrying out the Popes teaching about the two forms of the celebration of the Eucharist.  There will of course be some priests who may not know immediately how best to respond to genuine requests for the extraordinary rite. The Norms are perfectly clear that the responsibility lies with the Bishop and where appropriate for him to refer to the Holy See for assistance and advice. 

In Westminster, I have readily given permission for the celebration of Mass according to the John XXIII Missal in some churches in our Diocese. So I was glad to be among those consulted by the Holy Father before he issued this document and to share with fellow Bishops from around the world our experiences in England and Wales in this matter. The situation is very different in almost every country, and we were united with the Holy Father in his desire for reconciliation and for unity in prayer and belief.

I am confident that the Bishops of England and Wales are well placed to implement this timely Letter and the Norms which clarify the universal discipline of the Church.

Background information on the Roman Missal, 1962

The publication of the Roman Missal in 1962 was the last before the Second Vatican Council which initiated a renewal in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. It is this edition, the Roman Missal (or Missale Romanum in Latin) of 1962, which is permitted for use by those who wish to use this form of the Mass.

It was a final revision of the text which was first published in 1570 by Pope Pius V as a result of the Council of Trent. This Council of the Church was called to respond to the Reformation which had affected northern Europe. It sought a reform of the liturgy to provide a common, unified text for the Church; made possible by developments in printing. The text is sometimesreferred to as the Tridentine Rite. A Rite refers a family of texts  in this case the Roman Rite.

Characteristics of the Roman Missal of 1962 are:

  • It is celebrated in Latin.
  • The celebration is focused on the sanctuary.
  • The priest faces East in the same direction as the congregation.
  • There are precise directions for the priest on how he should conduct himself.
  • It is associated with the music of plainchant.
  • It is only in the 20th Century that the idea of participation by the congregation developed.

Some of these characteristics continue to be true of the current Mass such that it can be celebrated in Latin and that plainchant continues to be used. 

In the document on the liturgy from the Second Vatican Council (19621965) it recognised the need to renew the liturgal rites so that they express more clearly the holy things they signify and that the Christian people, as far as possible, are able to understand then with ease and to take part in the rites fully, actively, and as befits a community (SC 21)

Following the Second Vatican Council a revised Roman Missal was published in Latin in 1970 and subsequently translated into English and other languages. 

Regular Roman Missal (Tridentine) Masses organised in the Diocese of Westminster with the permission of the Cardinal.

  • Westminster Cathedral, SW1P 1QW

(side chapels) Second Saturday 4.30pm Low Mass

High Masses at the High Altar usually in June and November

  • The Oratory, Brompton Road, SW7 2RP

Sunday 9am Low Mass (High Altar)

Holy Days of Obligation 9am

Saturday 12.15pm Low Mass (St Wilfrids Chapel)

  • St James, Spanish Place, W1U 3QY

Sunday 9.30am Low Mass

Holy Days 11am Low Mass

Confirmations in November/December

1st January 12.00 High Mass

  • Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, WC2E 7NB

Monday 6.30pm Sung Mass

Second Friday 6.30pm

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