QUAERITUR: When will the Pope say the TLM in public?

By a reader it is asked:

I’m betting somebody has already asked this, but do you think the Holy Father will ever offer Mass in the Extraordinary Form? It’s been well over a year since the Motu Proprio has come out, and I haven’t heard any word on this. I ask this, because one friend of mine said that the Holy Father does not necessarily approve of the old Mass, because he has never celebrated it during his pontificate. Obviously this is incorrect, but it still raises an important question: if the Holy Father does approve of the Extraordinary Form, why has he not yet offered Mass in this form?


First, I am not sure that it really would make a critical difference whether the Holy Father says the older Mass in public.  His provisions in Summorum Pontificum are a matter of law.  His writings before his election are clear.  Would it "make a difference"?  Sure it would!  But it would be highly politicized as well.  It might do harm as well as good.  Frankly, I am fine with that, but the Holy Father alone has his particular perspective.

Second, when the Roman Pontiff celebrates solemnly in the older Rite, there are a lot of things involved.  The ceremonial of the Roman Pontiff is pretty much impossible now, because the court was abolished and many things were swept away.  It would take eons to redevelop those things and they are probably not so desirable in many ways.  However, I think the Holy Father could celebrate the TLM as a bishop would in his diocese: that is doable.  Also, if he didn’t want to celebrate it himself, he could have it celebrated in his presence.  I would be fine with those things.

Third, I think the Holy Father is spending a lot of his capital on pulling the Novus Ordo out of the tail-spin it is in.

Fourth, the Holy Father has been positioning people around him who are very favorable toward and knowledgeable about the older form.  It seems to me that he could be paving the way for a public celebration.  I don’t know that.  That is a supposition on my part.  The Holy Father will do as he believes best for the Church in this regard and, in this regard, I am content with his decision: I really trust that he is doing what he can, through liturgy, as part of a larger plan. As a student of Ratzinger for years, a careful observer, I think I have figured out the outlines of what he is trying to accomplish.

Do I think the Holy Father will say the TLM publicly? 

Given time, yes.  I think so. 

But I think he will wait until enough progress has been made, through the provisions of Summorum Pontificum and other facets of the Benedictine "Marshall Plan", so that it can be as irenic as possible, a source of more light than mere heat.

Therefore, pray that Almighty God grant our Pope length of days, health and strength, and that his enemies be confounded.

V. Let us pray for Benedict, our Pope.
R. May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies. [Ps 40:3]

Our Father,…
Hail Mary,….

O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Benedict, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Chris says:

    Father, do you really think any bad whatsoever could come from the Traditional Latin Mass? I really think that concept should be revisited.

    I’m pretty sure that, if the Holy Father unannounced celebrated the traditional Mass tomorrow, you would be the first one doing somersaults and screaming from the mountaintops about how it is the most pivitol moment of his pontificate and how it’s all part of his grand Marshall Plan. And you’d be right.

    So there’s no reason to play down its importance now before he does it. It would be a huge deal and would bring us all many graces.

  2. ED says:

    What do you mean that there is no more papal court in the Vatican? What was it? and why was it abolished? Why cant it be brought back,nothings impossible.

  3. Chris: The Pope is the Pope of everyone, not just of those who agree with him. So, I think that a Pope can weigh also the timing of his decisions, to make sure that what he does has the greatest and best impact.

    It seems to me that if the Pope were to move very quickly to celebrate the TLM in public, that could galvanize a lot of resistance, which still dominates in very many places. It would be best to wait for some of that resistance to die off or have its foundations eroded from under it for a while.

  4. Piers-the-Ploughman says:

    As much as I would like to see the Pope celebrate the TLM, I believe Fr Z has it just right. The Pope is moving slowly, respecting all and giving all a chance to participate. Any triumphalist attitude could easily entrench additional resistance and impede more progress later, and cause more conflict in the Church. The Holy Father patiently waits for the Spirit’s power of persuasion to work.

  5. Marcos says:

    Your blessing,

    Why do you think these old things that were abolished and that are necessary to the pope say the TLM are not desirable in many ways? and in which ways…?

    Marcos Mattke
    Curitiba, PR, Brazil

  6. Marcos says:

    Like… he’d have to be crowned to use the tiara…?

  7. Berthold says:

    I am not so sure if the lack of the papal lay court would make a great problem. Although no pope has used a sedia gestatoria for the last 30 or so years the college of the Sediarii still exists, and to my knowledge the Annuario pontificio (?) still mentions the Prince Attendants at the papal throne. So I think that the only major loss would be the band of the Noble Guard playing from the dome at the Elevation, but they could easily be replaced. What I regard as a greater difficulty is that quite a lot of senior clergy would be involved, and I am not sure if one could find now a Cardinal-Bishop, three Cardinal-Deacons, at least three archbishops and a good deal of the judges of the Rota willing and able to fulfill their ceremonial duties. Certainly, the Holy Father could also celebrate as Bishop, but as the solemn papal Mass contains so many features leading back to early Christianity (e.g. the chanting of the Gospel in Greek or the Pope receiving Holy Communion at his throne) that giving it up would be a great shame.
    I somewhat doubt that a public celebration of the Extraordinary Form by the Holy Father would change much – it would be greated by those preferring this rite (like me), but merely ignored by the rest. It may be better to wait some time, until it is possible to do this liturgy properly. Watching the videos of the coronation of Bl. John XXIII with all its franticly gesticulating Caeremoniarii also shows that this most complex type of liturgy needs a lot of preparation by everyone involved.
    A papal ‘coronation’ would certainly not be necessary. The pope becomes pope by accepting the election, and the ‘coronation’ was to my knowledge merely the changing from the vestments worn for the Mass into the processional ones worn for the ride from the Vatican to the Lateran that used to follow it in the Middle Ages. So, there would be no liturgical or legal reason against the use of the Tiara, if it would be politically prudent is certainly another matter.

  8. Geoffrey says:

    I think Fr. Z is right in saying “the Holy Father is spending a lot of his capital on pulling the Novus Ordo out of the tail-spin it is in.”

    I am sure I will be attacked for this, but salvaging the Ordinary Form is very important, if not most important just because of the fact that it is the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. While the Extraordinary Form is growing, the vast majority of Roman Rite Catholics know only the Ordinary Form. It teaches and instructs them, so it needs to be “fixed” ASAP!

    Personally, I have very big doubts that His Holiness will celebrate the Extraordinary Form in public. I certainly think he would (and perhaps already has) celebrate it in private as Pope John Paul the Great did at Castel Gandolfo a number of years ago (to have been a fly on the wall for that!).

  9. John Enright says:

    Referring to the Pope’s decision to celebrate Mass according to the Missal of Pope Paul VI instead of the Extraordinary Form, Father Z. said “Frankly, I am fine with that, but the Holy Father alone has his particular perspective.”

    I agree completely. I enjoy attending Mass in both forms, and I fully intend to do so. While I deeply love our traditional liturgy, I also equally love our ordinary liturgy, provided that it is celebrated in the manner anticipated by our Fathers attending VCII.

  10. mitch says:

    It made me sad to read that one phrase in a sentence that said “the ceremonial of the Roman Pontiff is pretty much impossible now”. For many millions did love it and would again. To see that tradition once a year would be in the light of tradition. I was not of those generations but believe it must have been spectacular and enriching to our Catholic spirits. That line just seemed so definitive to many of us who wish and believe and pray for its’ revival……Pause………the saddness has passed and I will continue to dream……….

  11. Marcos says:


    Like mitch… right above..
    When you say impossible… do you really mean impossible???

  12. Marcos: I can’t imagine the circumstances in which it could be reinstated.

  13. Geoffrey says:

    A solemn Papal Mass like it was before the 1960s would be a logistical nightmare. I’ve read about it and it seems so incredibly daunting. Beautiful, yes… but sheesh!

    A Pontifical Mass said by the Pope would be more realistic, with perhaps some elements of the old Papal Mass (readings in Latin and Greek… you know, the “easy” stuff), but otherwise…

  14. Mark says:

    A very sober and well reasoned line of substantive arguments from Father Z.

    Still, I wish contemporary Popes would show more of that spark of impetuous virtuosity our first Pope had.

  15. Dan says:

    Was the Solemn Papal Mass only offered once per century that it is such a daunting ceremony?

    What is the history of the Papal Court?
    When did it come into being?

    Was it some kind of an Tridentine aberation that it should be so anathama now?

    I am sure that with correct planning and the use of an assuredly extant Rituale, it could be executed with great precision and beauty in short order.

    After all, if the monumental logistics of a world youth day can be pulled off, surely something much more efficacious and important should not present more of a challenge.

    I say, bring it on Holy Father!

  16. Louis E. says:

    Meanwhile,I note that Archbishop Nienstedt is to celebrate the TLM this coming Sunday at St. Augustine’s (why not at the cathedral?).

    Do the fistula and flabella and such uniquely papal paraphernalia still exist?

  17. Son of Trypho says:

    And you see some people complaining about the abuses in the NO. Check out this Anglican highlight from Australia.


  18. The last trad standing says:

    I agree entirely with John Enright. The Pope is wise to not alienate the vast majority of our brothers and sisters in the Faith who only know the NO Mass.
    I prefer the TLM, but am not so extreme that I would refuse to attend the NO if it is the only option.
    Weekdays I have no choice but to attend a NO Mass, and the Church I attend always offers a very reverent and according to the rubrics NO Mass.
    Deo gratias!

  19. josephus muris saliensis says:

    To answer those who ask, the Papal Court, or Curia, was the organic successor of the mediaeval and renaissance secular court of the Pope as ruler of the Papal States, its purpose not in any way religious, as in pertaining to the religious and liturgical life of the Church, though, of course, in practice, since the Court in some form accompanied the Pope everywhere all day long, the two were inextricably entwined. its structure was effectively unreformed from the late Renaissance, and many purely titular offices belonged to the great Roman noble families by tradition. It has nothing, except coincidence of date and spirit, to do with the “Tridentine” liturgical reforms. The Court wore a vast array of splendid, mostly 16th century, uniforms and dress, with breeches, doublets, ruff collars, swords etc. Look at YouTube videos of the Coronation of John XXIII, or indeed, watch the film “The Shoes of the Fisherman” (1968) which has real footage of the Court of Paul VI cut into it. The descent of the Scala Regia in the Sedia Gestatoria makes me cry every time.

    Glimpses of the remains of the Curia can be seen at the reception of dignitaries at the Papal apartments, see http://www.photo.va, though this is a mere shadow.

    However – there are also photographs of Paul VI celebrating a Low Mass at the Papal altar in St Peters. Now that would be possible.

    Anyway, we can be sure that Don Guidino has watched all the films we have, and we can confidently say that the Holy Father knows best! In manus suas.

  20. josephus muris saliensis says:

    Sorry to be a bore and drone on, but having just watched the relevant sequence from “Shoes of the Fisherman”, it is most interesting as it includes many Pauline reforms: the flabelli have gone (sadly), there is concelebration of the Cardinals, the Papal altar has stumpy little candles in steel dishes (though correctly arranged), and the Pope (Anthony Quinn) wears a modern Paul VI/ JPII chasuble. All within the setting of the Papal liturgy, attended upon by the Curia.

    Thus what we see is the Hermeneutic of Continuity, and had the rupture of the Missal of 1970 not derailed the Papal ceremonial, we would have a continuity, absorbing the simplifications and reforms organically, which would be with us now.

    Thus starting from this point (ie the last time the papal Mass was celebrated in the Traditional Rite by Paul VI), as opposed to trying to return to the ceremonial as at the Coronation of Bl John XXIII, must be the way forward. It will not be as splendid as some of us rampant traditionalists would like, but then it is not done for us! Most importantly, it will be the Church acting within Her Tradition, and looking to the future.

    As Fr Z invokes us – Oremus pro Pontifice Nostro Benedicto.

  21. Peter says:

    Interesting to note the complexity that would be involved in the celebration of the Papal liturtgy according to the old books. It makes me recall reading the implementation documents that came with the very early published versions of the Vatican II documents. My memory is that the accompanying document to Sacrosanctum concilium was aimed at simplification of ceremonial.

    Then it all got derailed …

  22. Berthold says:

    Although the involvement of many Cardinals would probably cause difficulties I fail to see a grave difference in complexity between the ceremonial of the traditional papal liturgy and a full-blown Pontifical High Mass on the Throne (i.e. celebrated by the Ordinary in his Cathedral in the presence of vested Canons). The Holy Father would need some more clergy to hold his train than a bishop would, there would be the additional Greek Epistle and Gospel (already done this year on Maundy Thursday), some minor changes at the Offertory (e.g. a large, striped Corporal and a lot of carrying-around of vessels by clergy in a humeral veil, which I couldn’t really understand), and the Holy Father would receive Communion at his throne so that It has to be brought to him. There are many dignitaries mentioned in the order of the Processions in and out, but as they play no real role (and most of them still do exist, I believe) they could also be left out – I assume anyway that this line-up had to be changed often, e.g. after the end of the papal states). The Sedia should be restored as a matter of urgency – not for ceremonial reasons but because it allows the people to see the Holy Father without climbing on each other.

  23. Gio says:

    I agree with Berthold. Virtually all of the elements needed to celebrate a full blown papal mass still exists. I don’t believe it would be that difficult to find a cardinal bishop and three cardinal deacons. We have already seen the reappearance of cardinal deacons in the papal liturgy but their roles were mostly confined to just sitting beside the pope and lifting his cope as he walk. I say it’s about time that they do what their positions as cardinal deacons are supposed to do, that is act as the pope’s deacons. I have heared before that some refuse to act as deacons because it is below their dignity as bishops. Well then, they should not have accepted their appointments as cardinal deacons in the first place.

  24. m.a. says:

    “Do the fistula and flabella and such uniquely papal paraphernalia still exist?”


    Sorry, but words like “fistula and flabella” sound like medical terms for something that needs to be surgically removed…

    Instead of all the pomp and circumstance, I would rather see the Pope celebrate humbly as a simple priest. That type of humility would grab my attention and that of the world, especially the Catholic world, to the holiness of this man.

    All the talk about cardinal deacons, different corporals, tiaras, etc. are trappings of worldly power to me. And that’s not what being Catholic means to me.

  25. josephus muris saliensis says:

    m.a. – The Pope always celebrates as a simple priest, along with all other priests, down to the newly ordained: the priest who is Jesus Christ, who offers Himself in all Masses upon our altars.

    You confuse the concept of “noble simplicity”. Simplicity, yes. But also nobility: that which is fitting and worthy. Assuming that you are a good Catholic, and thus do not harbour erroneous ideas of egalitarianism, you will agree that it is fitting, and thus noble, for the Pope, Christ’s chosen successor of St Peter, whom He Himself chose as his Vicar, and thus unique in his position among men (as are we all, in our own station), to celebrate according to the dignity which is divinely given to him. The humility with which an old man submits to the physical effort of the ceremonial, to the glory of God, is truly noble simplicity.

  26. Chris says:

    Father: I can’t imagine the circumstances in which it could be reinstated.

    You’re right that no one on Earth will probably try to get this done. We may have to wait for the Holy Ghost to bring restoration.

  27. m.a: All the talk about cardinal deacons, different corporals, tiaras, etc. are trappings of worldly power to me. And that’s not what being Catholic means to me.

    Okay… that is your view. But consider that there must be room for HIGH Church expressions and not just LOW Church expressions of liturgy. There is room for the grand and triumphal, with the full weight of the Church’s tradition and history. Furthermore, we are not speaking here of a fugitive priest in a hedgerow, or a chaplain at the jeep hood, or a country parish in time of peace. We are talking about the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. Sometimes I will sardonically refer to it as “the little chapel on the hill”, when in the Square in front of it people would ask me “Where is St. Peter’s?”, but there is very little that is humble when you are the main altar of the Vatican Basilica.

    There must be room for all of this.

  28. TJM says:

    His Holiness has probably read this blog and realizes the wisdom of the “brick by brick” approach of Father Z. For those of us who follow the papal liturgies with interest, Pope Benedict has been moving the OF more and more towards the direction of the EF by using
    Gregorian Chant, sacred polyphony, singing of the propers, the Benedictine arrangment on the altar, and more splendid ceremonial. I think
    by doing so, the Pope is conditioning the Faithful by careful steps for a more widespread acceptance of the EF so that in time, the EF is
    more widely accepted and utilized to positively affect the OF and heal the liturgical breach which occured following the Council. Like it or
    not, all of those things I mentioned are more closely associated with the EF than the OF. What I believe the Holy Father’s end game is that
    the OF of the future will look and feel more and more like the EF and it may even involve the eventual reintroduction into the OF of
    substantive portions of the EF like the Offertory Prayers, the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, etc. That’s simply my take. Tom

  29. Charivari Rob says:

    I assume it (the first public occasion) would be in Rome, as opposed to on some international visit.

    Beyond that…

    Christmas or Easter, perhaps? Many eyes turn to Rome at such times. Illustrating the universality of the TLM might be most useful at such a time.

    On the other hand, the Holy Father might choose a more ‘ordinary’ Sunday, if he thinks it sends a clearer message that the TLM is for all times throughout the year, not just to be dusted off and brought out once a year (tied down to a specific occasion).

    Is there a specific feast or patron that would be particularly appropriate in association with such a landmark?

  30. the Benedictine “Marshall Plan”

    You made my day with that line… ;)

  31. Daniel Hill says:

    I vote R. Burke as sucessor of Peter and next in line after Benedict, may God give him longevity!
    Get him to a consistory immediately.

  32. ASD says:

    I’m no politician, but honestly, I don’t see how a celebration of TLM by Pope Benedict could increase hostility. My impression is that many Priests and Bishops will ignore SP & TLM for as long as they can get away with doing so. If BXVI celebrated TLM, he would send a message: I. Mean. It. I wish he would do it.

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