Pope Francis published a Motu Proprio on Friday to redefine the use of the pre-Vatican II missal, granting the decision to allow its use to the local bishops. Groups attending the pre-Vatican II liturgy must not deny the validity of the liturgical reform dictated by the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs, the document states.
After consulting bishops throughout the world, Pope Francis decided to modify the norms regulating the use of the 1962 missal granted 14 years ago by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, as the “extraordinary form of the Roman Rite”. The Pope has published the Motu proprio Traditionis custodes, dated 16 July 2021, regarding the use of the Roman liturgy prior to 1970. It is accompanied by a letter in which he explains the reasons behind his decision. Here are the main points.
The responsibility to regulate the celebration of the pre-conciliar liturgy returns to the Bishop, as the moderator of the liturgical life of the diocese: “it his exclusive competence to authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in his diocese, according to the guidelines of the Apostolic See”. The bishop is to verify that groups already celebrating the liturgy with the 1962 Missal “do not deny the validity and the legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs”.
Masses celebrated according to the 1962 Missal are not to take place any longer in parishes. Bishops are to establish both the location(s) where and the days on which it will be celebrated. It is required that the readings be proclaimed “in the vernacular language”, using the translations approved by the Episcopal Conferences. The celebrant will be delegated by the bishop. The latter is also to evaluate whether or not to retain the celebration of the pre-Vatican liturgy according to its “effectiveness for spiritual growth”. It is also necessary that the designated priest not only have at heart the correct celebration of the liturgy, but also the pastoral and spiritual care of the faithful. The Bishop is “to take care not to authorize the establishment of new groups”.
Priests ordained after the publication of today’s Motu Proprio who want to celebrate the pre-conciliar liturgy, “should submit a formal request to the diocesan Bishop who shall consult the Apostolic See before granting this authorization”; while those who are already doing so may request from their diocesan Bishop the authorization to continue. The institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, “erected by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei”, will now come under the competence of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. The Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life will monitor the observance of these new provisions.
In the letter accompanying the document, Pope Francis explains that the established concessions granted by his predecessors for the use of the 1962 Roman Missal were above all “motivated by the desire to foster the healing of the schism with the movement of Mgr Lefebvre”. The request directed to the Bishops to generously welcome the “just aspirations” of the members of the faithful who request the use of this Missal was also motivated by “the ecclesial intention of restoring the unity of the Church”. Pope Francis observes that, “many in the Church came to regard this faculty as an opportunity to adopt freely the Roman Missal promulgated by St Pius V and use it in a manner parallel to the Roman Missal promulgated by St Paul VI”.
The Pope recalls that Pope Benedict XVI’s decision promulgated with the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (2007) was sustained by the “confidence that such a provision would not place in doubt one of the key measures of Vatican Council II or minimize in this way its authority”. Fourteen years ago, Pope Benedict declared “unfounded the fear of division in parish communities, because ‘the two forms of the use of the Roman Rite would enrich one another’ “.
However, the responses to the recent questionnaire circulated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith among the Bishops, Pope Francis writes, “reveal a situation that preoccupies and saddens me, and persuades me of the need to intervene”. Benedict’s desire to ensure unity, Pope Francis says, has “often been seriously disregarded”, and the concessions offered with largesse have instead been “exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division”.
The Pope writes that he is “saddened by abuses in the celebration of the liturgy on all sides”. In addition, he deplores the fact that the “instrumental use of Missale Romanum of 1962 is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church’ “. To doubt the Council, Pope Francis explains, “is to doubt the intentions of those very Fathers who exercised their collegial power in a solemn manner cum Petro et sub Petro in an ecumenical council, and, in the final analysis, to doubt the Holy Spirit himself who guides the Church”.
This is the final reason Pope Francis gives for his decision to modify the past concessions:
“Ever more plain in the words and attitudes of many is the close connection between the choice of celebrations according to the liturgical books prior to Vatican Council II and the rejection of the Church and her institutions in the name of what is called the “true Church.” One is dealing here with comportment that contradicts communion and nurtures the divisive tendency – ‘I belong to Paul; I belong instead to Apollo; I belong to Cephas; I belong to Christ’ – against which the Apostle Paul so vigorously reacted (1 Cor 1:12-13). In defense of the unity of the Body of Christ, I am constrained to revoke the faculty granted by my Predecessors”.
APOSTOLIC LETTER ISSUED “MOTU PROPRIO” BY THE SUPREME PONTIFF FRANCIS
ON THE USE OF THE ROMAN LITURGY PRIOR TO THE REFORM OF 1970
Guardians of the tradition, the bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome constitute the visible principle and foundation of the unity of their particular Churches. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through the proclamation of the Gospel and by means of the celebration of the Eucharist, they govern the particular Churches entrusted to them.
In order to promote the concord and unity of the Church, with paternal solicitude towards those who in any region adhere to liturgical forms antecedent to the reform willed by the Vatican Council II, my Venerable Predecessors, Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI, granted and regulated the faculty to use the Roman Missal edited by John XXIII in 1962. In this way they intended “to facilitate the ecclesial communion of those Catholics who feel attached to some earlier liturgical forms” and not to others.
In line with the initiative of my Venerable Predecessor Benedict XVI to invite the bishops to assess the application of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum three years after its publication, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith carried out a detailed consultation of the bishops in 2020. The results have been carefully considered in the light of experience that has matured during these years.
At this time, having considered the wishes expressed by the episcopate and having heard the opinion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I now desire, with this Apostolic Letter, to press on ever more in the constant search for ecclesial communion. Therefore, I have considered it appropriate to establish the following:
Art. 1. The liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, are the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.
Art. 2. It belongs to the diocesan bishop, as moderator, promoter, and guardian of the whole liturgical life of the particular Church entrusted to him, to regulate the liturgical celebrations of his diocese. Therefore, it is his exclusive competence to authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in his diocese, according to the guidelines of the Apostolic See.
Art. 3. The bishop of the diocese in which until now there exist one or more groups that celebrate according to the Missal antecedent to the reform of 1970:
§ 1. is to determine that these groups do not deny the validity and the legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs;
§ 2. is to designate one or more locations where the faithful adherents of these groups may gather for the eucharistic celebration (not however in the parochial churches and without the erection of new personal parishes);
§ 3. to establish at the designated locations the days on which eucharistic celebrations are permitted using the Roman Missal promulgated by Saint John XXIII in 1962. In these celebrations the readings are proclaimed in the vernacular language, using translations of the Sacred Scripture approved for liturgical use by the respective Episcopal Conferences;
§ 4. to appoint a priest who, as delegate of the bishop, is entrusted with these celebrations and with the pastoral care of these groups of the faithful. This priest should be suited for this responsibility, skilled in the use of the Missale Romanumantecedent to the reform of 1970, possess a knowledge of the Latin language sufficient for a thorough comprehension of the rubrics and liturgical texts, and be animated by a lively pastoral charity and by a sense of ecclesial communion. This priest should have at heart not only the correct celebration of the liturgy, but also the pastoral and spiritual care of the faithful;
§ 5. to proceed suitably to verify that the parishes canonically erected for the benefit of these faithful are effective for their spiritual growth, and to determine whether or not to retain them;
§ 6. to take care not to authorize the establishment of new groups.
Art. 4. Priests ordained after the publication of the present Motu Proprio, who wish to celebrate using the Missale Romanum of 1962, should submit a formal request to the diocesan Bishop who shall consult the Apostolic See before granting this authorization.
Art. 5. Priests who already celebrate according to the Missale Romanum of 1962 should request from the diocesan Bishop the authorization to continue to enjoy this faculty.
Art. 6. Institutes of consecrated life and Societies of apostolic life, erected by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, fall under the competence of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies for Apostolic Life.
Art. 7. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, for matters of their particular competence, exercise the authority of the Holy See with respect to the observance of these provisions.
Art. 8. Previous norms, instructions, permissions, and customs that do not conform to the provisions of the present Motu Proprio are abrogated.
Everything that I have declared in this Apostolic Letter in the form of Motu Proprio, I order to be observed in all its parts, anything else to the contrary notwithstanding, even if worthy of particular mention, and I establish that it be promulgated by way of publication in “L’Osservatore Romano”, entering immediately in force and, subsequently, that it be published in the official Commentary of the Holy See, Acta Apostolicae Sedis.
Given at Rome, at Saint John Lateran, on 16 July 2021, the liturgical Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in the ninth year of Our Pontificate.
 Cfr Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church “Lumen Gentium”, 21 november 1964, n. 23 AAS 57 (1965) 27.
 Cfr Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church “Lumen Gentium”, 21 november 1964, n. 27: AAS 57 (1965) 32; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree concerning the pastoral office of bishops in the Church “Christus Dominus”, 28 october 1965, n. 11: AAS 58 (1966) 677-678; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 833.
 Cfr John Paul II, Apostolic Letter given Motu proprio “Ecclesia Dei”, 2 july 1988: AAS 80 (1988) 1495-1498; Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter given Motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, 7 july 2007: AAS 99 (2007) 777-781; Apostolic Letter given Motu proprio “Ecclesiae unitatem”, 2 july 2009: AAS 101 (2009) 710-711.
 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter given Motu proprio “Ecclesia Dei”, 2 july 1988, n. 5: AAS 80 (1988) 1498.
 Cfr Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Costitution on the sacred liturgy “Sacrosanctum Concilium”, 4 december 1963, n. 41: AAS 56 (1964) 111; Caeremoniale Episcoporum, n. 9; Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament, Instruction on certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist “Redemptionis Sacramentum”, 25 march 2004, nn. 19-25: AAS 96 (2004) 555-557.
 Cfr CIC, can. 375, § 1; can. 392.
 Cfr Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Decree “Quo magis” approving seven Eucharistic Prefaces for the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite, 22 february 2020, and Decree “Cum sanctissima” on the liturgical celebration in honour of Saints in the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite, 22 february 2020: L’Osservatore Romano, 26 march 2020, p. 6.
[01014-EN.01] [Original text: Italian]