Pope meets bishops, discusses decision on pre-Vatican II liturgy

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI spent about an hour with an international group of bishops June 27 discussing his decision to allow greater use of the Tridentine Mass.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who attended the meeting, confirmed to Catholic News Service that the purpose of the encounter was to inform the bishops about the coming papal document and help ensure its favorable reception.

Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis were the only bishops from the United States participating, sources said.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters June 28 that “about 15” bishops from around the world were invited to the meeting organized by the Vatican Secretariat of State.

A Vatican statement said officials explained “the content and the spirit of the announced ‘motu proprio’ of the Holy Father on the use of the missal promulgated by John XXIII in 1962.” The term “motu proprio” is Latin for “on one’s own initiative” and signals the pope’s special personal interest in the subject.

Pope Benedict stopped by to greet the bishops and “engaged with them in a thorough conversation for about an hour,” the statement said.

“The publication of the document – which will be accompanied by an extensive personal letter from the Holy Father to individual bishops – is expected within a few days, when the document itself will be sent to all the bishops with an indication for its implementation,” the statement said.

Sources said the pope’s document and accompanying letter were each a few pages long.

Vatican officials have said the document will allow for wider use of the Tridentine rite, but have not provided details about how this will be accomplished.

The new Roman Missal replaced the Tridentine rite in 1969. In 1984, Pope John Paul II first established the indult by which, under certain conditions and with the permission of the local bishop, groups could use the Tridentine Mass, which was last revised in the 1962 Roman missal.

Speaking with reporters, Father Lombardi provided the names of some of the participants at the June 27 meeting. They included:

– Cardinal O’Malley.

– Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini, papal vicar for Rome.

– Italian Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, president of the Italian bishops’ conference.

– French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon.

– Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bourdeaux, president of the French bishops’ conference.

– Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster, president of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales.

– Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz, president of the German bishops’ conference.

– Bishop Kurt Koch of Basel, president of the Swiss bishops’ conference.

Like Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Burke, some of the participants were neither presidents of their national bishops’ conference nor chairmen of their conference’s liturgy committees, a Vatican source said.

In mid-May, during the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean in Brazil, Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos said that Pope Benedict planned to “extend to the entire church” the possibility of celebrating the so-called Tridentine Mass of 1962 “as an extraordinary form of the single Roman rite.”

Cardinal Castrillon is president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” established by Pope John Paul to ensure pastoral care to former followers of the late traditionalist Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who was excommunicated in 1988 after ordaining bishops without papal approval. Archbishop Lefebvre had rejected the liturgical reforms and concepts of religious freedom and ecumenism as formulated by the Second Vatican Council.

Wider use of the pre-Vatican II Mass in Latin “is not a step backward,” Cardinal Castrillon said, but a sign that the pope “wants to make available to the church all the treasures of the Latin liturgy that have, for centuries, nourished the spiritual life of so many generations of Catholic faithful.”

In an early June interview, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, said the pope was “personally interested in making this happen” and that the pope’s personal letter accompanying the document would explain why he wanted to expand access to the older Mass as well as expressing his hope for a serene reception by the church.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.