Liturgy Newsletter — September 2007


Motu Proprio: Summorum Pontificum

On 7 July Pope Benedict XVI published his long awaited Motu Proprio on the use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the reform of 1970. The Motu Proprio, legislation published by the Pope’s own initiative, replaces all previous indults.

The Holy Father accompanied Summorum Pontificum with a Letter to Bishops. In the letter he gave reasons for the publication of the Motu Proprio. He noted that there was a need for ‘clearer juridical regulation’ which had not been previously foreseen. The Norms ‘are also meant to free bishops from constantly having to evaluate anew how they are to respond to various situations’. Pope Benedict also speaks of the obligation ‘to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew’.

The Pope speaks of two forms of the Roman Missal ‘the two fold use of one and the same rite’: the Ordinary form — the Missal of Paul VI is the normal ‘expression of the Lex orandi (Law of Prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin Rite’ and the Extraordinary form — the Missal of Bl. John XXIII, the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal issued following the Council of Trent. ‘There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too.’

The Norms allows priests when they celebrate without the people to use either the Ordinary or Extraordinary form without the need for further permission. The Holy Father does note that use of the Extraordinary form ‘presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language’ and that a priest cannot exclude using the Ordinary form. The faithful may attend these Masses if they ask to be admitted.

In a parish, where there is a ‘stable group of the faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition’ they may make a request of the parish priest for celebrations of the Extraordinary form of Mass. The Norms encourage the pastor to willingly accept their requests and to ensure that their welfare harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish — avoiding discord. At Masses using the Extraordinary form the readings may be given in the vernacular using an approved translation. Where the good of souls would seem to require it a pastor may give permission for the celebration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Marriage, Penance and the Anointing of the Sick using the Extraordinary form; in a similar way a bishop may celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The Motu Proprio comes into effect on 14 September 2007, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. The full Latin text of the document can be found on the Vatican website. The text, together with an unofficial translation, has been published by Catholic Truth Society.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said:

‘On behalf of the Bishops of England and Wales I welcome the Holy Father’s 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. “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.’

Synod of Bishops

The preparatory document (Lineamenta) for the next Synod of Bishops in 2008 has been released. The subject of the Synod is The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church. The document is in 3 sections: Revelation: the Word of God and the Church; The Word of God in the Life of the Church; The Word of God in the Mission of the Church. Each section concludes with a series of questions and responses are invited from Bishops’ Conferences. The response will form the basis of the working document (Instrumentum Laboris) of the Synod.

Year of St Paul

On the feast of St Peter and St Paul this year Pope Benedict proclaimed a Year of St Paul from June 2008 – June 2009 to mark the 2000th anniversary of St Paul’s birth. It is reckoned that St Paul was born between 6 – 10 A.D.

To prepare for the year the Liturgy Office has begun a series of leaflets on the writing of St Paul. Each leaflet takes one or two of the Apostle’s epistles as they occur in the Sunday Lectionary and provides an introduction to the text. They are intended for both for those who proclaim and hear the word.