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Instruction on the Application of the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum

Monday, May 16, 2011  
Posted by: Katie Richards
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VATICAN CITY, 13 MAY 2011 (VIS) - Following is the notice, in full, summarizing the new Instruction Universae Ecclesia regarding the application of the Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum" issued by Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office.

"Instruction on the application of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (of 7 July 2007, entered into effect 14 September 2007) was approved by Pope Benedict XVI last 8 April and carries the date of 30 April in liturgical remembrance of Pope St. Pius V.

The Instruction, called Universae Ecclesiae on the basis of the first words of the text in Latin, comes from the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, to which the Pope also entrusted the task of monitoring the observance and application of the Motu Proprio. It therefore bears the signatures of its president, Cardinal William Levada, and secretary, Msgr. Guido Pozzo.

The document was sent to all the Bishops in the past weeks. Remember that "Instructions clarify the prescripts of laws, elaborating on and determining the methods to be observed in fulfilling them" (CIC, can. 34). As is said in n.12, the Instruction was issued "with the desire to guarantee the proper interpretation and the correct application of the Motu Proprio 'Summorum Pontificum'".

It is natural that, in its application, the Instruction follow the law contained in the Motu Proprio. The fact that this occurs now, three years later, is easily explained by recalling that in the Pope's Letter accompanying the Motu Proprio, he explicitly said to the Bishops: "I invite you to send to the Holy See an account of your experiences, three years after this Motu Proprio has taken effect.If truly serious difficulties come to light, ways to remedy them can be sought." The letter accompanying the Instruction thus bears with it the fruit of a three year trial of the application of the law, which was foreseen from the beginning.

The document is presented in plain wording and is easily read. Its Introduction (nos. 1-8) briefly recalls the history of the Roman Missal up to the last edition of John XXIII in 1962 and the new Missal approved by Paul VI in 1970 following the liturgical reform of Vatican Council II. It repeats the fundamental principle that there are "two forms of the Roman Liturgy, defined respectively as extraordinaria and ordinaria: they are two usages of the one Roman Rite, one alongside the other. Both are the expression of the same lex orandi of the Church. On account of its venerable and ancient use, the forma extraordinaria is to be maintained with appropriate honor" (n. 6).

The purpose of the Motu Proprio, expressed in the following three points, bears repeating: a) to offer to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in its most ancient usage, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved; b) to effectively guarantee and ensure, for all who ask for it, the use of the forma extraordinaria; and c) to promote reconciliation at the heart of the Church (cf. n. 8).

A brief section of the document (nos. 9-11) recalls the tasks and powers of the Commission Ecclesia Dei, to which the Pope "has conferred ordinary vicarious power" on the subject. Among others, this has two very important consequences. First of all, this Commission can decide on recourses legitimately sent to it against eventual measures taken by bishops or other Ordinaries that seem to be in conflict with the dispositions of the Motu Proprio (while retaining the possibility of further challenging the decisions of the Commission itself before the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura). Moreover, it falls to the Commission, with the approval of the Congregation for Divine Worship, to take care of eventual editions of liturgical texts for the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite (for example, it is to be hoped that, following the document, new saints and new prefaces will be added).

The properly normative part of the document (nos. 12-35) contains 23 brief points on different topics.

The competence of diocesan bishops to implement the Motu Proprio is reasserted, with the reminder that in cases of controversy regarding the celebration in the forma extraordinaria, the Commission Ecclesia Dei will adjudicate.

It clarifies the concept of coetus fidelium stabiliter existens ("where there exists a stable group of faithful"), whose desire to attend the celebration in the forma extraordinaria is to be willingly accepted by pastors. While leaving an evaluation of the number of persons necessary to constitute such a group to the prudent assessment of the pastors, it specifies that it not be necessarily constituted by persons belonging to a single parish, but can be composed of persons coming from different parishes or even different dioceses. Always keeping in mind respect for the widest pastoral needs, the Instruction proposes a spirit of "generous welcome" toward the groups of faithful who request the forma extraordinaria and the priests who occasionally ask to celebrate that form with some faithful.

Also very important is the clarification (n. 19) according to which the faithful who request the celebration of the forma extraordinaria "must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria" or against the Pope's authority as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church. Such would, in fact, be in obvious contradiction of the purpose of the Motu's "reconciliation".

Important indications regarding the "qualified priest" to celebrate the forma extraordinaria are also given. Naturally, he should not have impediments from a canonical aspect. He should know Latin sufficiently well and know the rite to be celebrated. Bishops should, therefore, make adequate formation possible in the seminaries to such ends and the possibility is noted, if other qualified priests are unavailable, of the assistance of priests from the Institutes established by the Commission Ecclesia Dei (which normally use the forma extraordinaria).

The Instruction repeats that every priest, whether diocesan or religious, has the right to celebrate the Mass sine popolo (without a congregation) in the forma extraordinaria if they so desire. Therefore, if it is a celebration with the participation of only one minister, the individual religious do not need the permission of their superiors.

Always in reference to the forma extraordinaria, there follow norms regarding the liturgical rubrics and use of liturgical books (such as the Ritual, the Pontifical, and the Ceremonial of Bishops), the possibility of using the vernacular for the readings (proclaimed either after the Latin language readings or even in alternative to them in "Low Masses"), the possibility for clerics to use the pre-reform Breviary, and the possibility of celebrating the Sacred Triduum of Holy Week for groups of faithful who request the ancient rite. As regards holy ordination, the use of ancient liturgical books is only permitted in the Institutes that are under the Commission Ecclesia Dei.

On finishing the letter, one is left with the impression of a well-balanced text that intends to promote - as intended by the Pope - a serene usage of the pre-reform liturgy by priests and faithful who feel its sincere desire for their spiritual well-being: even more, a text that intends to guarantee the legitimacy and efficacy of such usage in keeping with what is reasonably possible. At the same time, the text is animated with trust in the bishops' pastoral wisdom and insists very strongly on a spirit of ecclesial communion that should be present in all - faithful, priests, and bishops - so that the purpose of reconciliation, so evident in the Holy Father's decision, not be hindered or frustrated but fostered and attained".


Click here to view the Instruction (a .pdf)



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