St. Peter’s Basilica – Individual morning Masses SUPPRESSED


A couple curious things.  There is no full signature.  There is no protocol number.

And, as an email correspondent pointed out, Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 57, §2 reads, “Nevertheless, each priest shall always retain his right to celebrate Mass individually…”.


For years I said my daily Mass each morning in the Basilica of St. Peter. I was there as a regular for so long that I had my own niche, a locked cabinet with my own chalice, alb, amice, books, etc. It was helpful, because we didn’t have to wait for some priest to return from saying Mass. The sisters who cared for the sacristy took care of our gear.  I shared my niche with the late Fr. Goswin Habets, a good friend, may he rest in peace.

There was something, especially among the old timers and more traditional priests of the perennial clerical etiquette one observes in passing each other on the way to or coming back from the altar. Not just in theory, but in living practice.

Many were the mornings when, accompanied by one of the altar boys from the minor seminary, we’d walk across the nave and there would not be another person in sight, like being alone in the basilica. Sometimes individuals or groups would wait outside the sacristy for priests to follow to an altar for Mass. Sometimes they would ask about the language the priest would use. “Latino” always picked up a few.  But people would usually have the chance to follow a priest about to celebrate in French or Spanish or German or Italian or English, etc.

For decades thousands upon thousands of resident priests and student priests and curial priests and pilgrim priests said their Masses at the many altars of the Basilica.

That’s gone. Suppressed to force priests to concelebrate, which is absolutely APPALLING.

What does that letter say?

To the Most Excellent Extraordinary Commissioner of the Fabbrica di San Pietro
To the Canons of the Vatican Chapter
To the Service Team of Liturgical Celebrations of the Basilica

The time of Lent invite us to return to the Lord with all our heart (cf John 2:12), giving great centrality to hearing the Word of God and to the Eucharistic celebration.  In such a sense, desiring to assure that Holy Masses in the Basilica of St. Peter are carried out in a climate of reflection and liturgical decorum, from now on the following is ordered:

  1. individual celebrations (of Mass) are suppressed;
  2. priests and faithful who hasten daily to the Basilica for Holy Mass have the possibility to participate at the following celebrations: 7:00 in the Chapel of the Choir, 7:30 at the Altar of the Cathedra, 8:00 in the Chapel of the Choir, 9:00 at the Altar of the Cathedra.  The schedule of the other Holy Masses remains unchanged.  On the occasion of a memorial of a Saint whose remains are kept in the Basilica, one of the Holy Masses can be celebrated at the respective altars.  On Sundays and Solemnities, the appropriateness of maintaining the schedule will be evaluated.
  3. Concelebrations will be liturgical animated with the assistance of lectors and cantors;
  4. for groups of pilgrims accompanied by a bishop or priest there will be assured the possibility of celebrating Holy Mass in the Vatican grottos (the crypt);
  5. Concerning the extraordinary rite, authorized priests can celebrate at 7:00, 7:30, 8:00 and 9:00 in the Clementine Chapel in the Vatican grottos.

The present arrangement will go into effect on 22 March of this year, Monday of the 5th week of Lent.

From the Vatican, 12 March 2021

What does the letter really say?

Firstly, remember that the old Archpriest of the Basilica, Card. Comastri, was recently replaced with a Franciscan, Card. Gambetti, OFMConv.   It is not entirely out of the question that this Cardinal brings with him certain liturgical proclivities peculiar to his order, such as the practice of daily concelebration in their houses rather than individual Masses.   That’s normal for him, perhaps, and, therefore, by gum, it’s gonna be the new normal in the Basilica too.   The Letter comes from the Secretariat of State, but it happened because the new guy wanted it this way.  And was only appointed on 20 February, less than a month ago.

Also, for the Novus Ordo Masses, there will be lectors and cantors and you can bet your bottom Euro they will all be lay people and mostly women.   And everything will be in Italian.

Ever since the Council there has risen and subsided in waves a kind of mania about concelebration.   For years priests were pretty much forced to concelebrate.  Then it subsided for a while (Benedict factor?).  It seems to be back.  That’s not good.  Concelebration should be safe, legal and rare, in my opinion, for the good of the priest himself.

One of the interesting things about those mornings at the Basilica were the other Catholic Rites you would see.   Eastern priests of varying Churches were often present, celebrating in their way.

The TLM, Extraordinary Form was on the rise in the Basilica.  I used to say the traditional Mass in the Basilica, lo those many years ago, and a few of the sacristy goons, now visible in basilica ceremonies, detested me for it, but they really couldn’t do anything to me.  Others managed to creep around to do it, but back in the time when Noè was Archpriest, he would send the sanpietrini, basilica workers, around like secret police to spy on priests to make sure that no one got out of line.  Those were the days when the Roman vestments disappeared from the sacristy and the nasty polyester chasubles were foisted on everyone, often without color choice for a votive Mass, etc.   Eventually things loosened up a bit, after Noè.  Then came Summorum Pontificum and there was a new ball game.

These new provisions ironically drive the TLM literally underground.  The handful of dirt being thrown in the direction of the priests who desire the older, traditional ROMAN Mass is that the Cappella Clementina was set aside.  This is the tiny chapel directly under the main altar of the basilica. It is up again the wall of Peter’s tomb.  It is where I said my First Mass.  Usually you would have to reserve the altar long in advance.   This is where the Extraordinary Form will be. What about those guys who want to use that chapel but who say the Ordinary Form?   My guess is that the Ordinary Form will be permitted there and if there isn’t a spot open on the reservation schedule, Fr. TLM is out of luck.  And he won’t be permitted to say Mass elsewhere in the vast basilica or crypt with is many altars.   He will be “unauthorized”.

If you are of an Eastern Church, I guess you are out of luck.  I didn’t see any provisions for them, unless maybe they come in a group.

What does “authorized priests” mean anyway? Authorized in the sense that they reserved a time slot in the Clementine Chapel?  Authorized by…. the sacristan?   Authorized by …?  I suspect that this means that priests of the SSPX who have gone to the Basilica for Mass will no longer be permitted.

This is not a good development.  Forcing uniformity is not a good thing.

Anecdote: One morning I was heading back to the sacristy from the other side of the Basilica, the far transept, and one of the basilica workers confronted me saying that I wasn’t suppose to say Mass in Latin because “people might be confused by something so different”.  Just at that moment, at a nearby altar, a Syro-Malabar (I think) priest in hot pink chiffon and gold lame, waving a cloth, exited through the gate at his altar, walked about for bit with the cloth, and then returned to his altar.   I continued, untroubled, on my way to the sacristy.

This is one more concrete sign that Catholics who desire tradition are the single most systematically marginalized group in the Church.

And lastly… I would ask the new Archpriest of the Basilica…


I was in the Basilica the morning the sanpietrini, at the orders of Card. Noe, tore out the REAL altar of the Chair, under Bernini’s masterpiece in bronze.  They didn’t get their work done in the night and some of them were posted to forbid photos.  They TORE OUT the Altar of the Chair, which was a theological sign of the unity of the teaching office of Peter with the Sacrifice of Calvary.

Will they now start tearing out the unused daily Mass altars?

The letter.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. MWCooney says:

    If anyone has doubted that a return to the time of the catacombs is upon us, this and countless other glimpses into the future should change that . . . but many will continue to resist taking the red pill. The worst aspect of all this, of course, is that it is being done by those who are, purportedly, our shepherds. Millstones.

  2. Fr. Pius, OP says:

    What a tragedy. Some of my fondest memories in Rome are of celebrating that early morning Mass at one of the many side altars. I am sorry that priests ordained in the future will now never be able to experience that.

    Two fundamental principles of canon law are that when an authority makes a decision he should hear from those affected (c. 50) and he should explain the reasoning at least in summary form (c. 51). It would certainly have made this decision easier to understand if there was some indication that either was done.

  3. Santono4 says:

    How horrible that this is happening. Think of the countless blessings that God the Father bestows on mankind through the sacrifice of His Beloved Son through the Holy Mass We need those blessings more then ever now, and they will be gone. It almost seems that this is by design.

  4. I am appalled, even though there was speculation abroad about the possibility of this (maybe that was Father Zuhlsdorf?). There has also been (as everyone here knows) speculation about ‘revisions’ to Summorum Pontificum which I’m now all the more ready to believe. Christus vulneratus est propter iniquitates nostras, attritus est propter scelera nostra, cuius livore sanati sumus.

  5. Ave Maria says:

    The prophecies of Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich come to mind and also, more recently, Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Rome will become the seat of the ______; and there will be an “ape” of the church……

  6. iPadre says:

    I had the grace of celebrating Masses on those side altars a number of times, before I knew the Extraordinary Form and after I had learned. Indeed a sad day. Also sad that priests who choose to NOT concelebrate will be celebrating private Mass in their hotel room. So much for the universality of the Church.

  7. Adelle Cecilia says:

    “Will they now start tearing out the unused daily Mass altars?”

    Well, when things suddenly fall into disuse, what else is one to do?

  8. ThePapalCount says:

    This is outrageous and poorly considered and ill advised. I am sure there will be backlash within the Vatican itself and this decision will be abandoned or modified to save face. Its just dumb. It’s unnecessary. And to use the Secretariat of State as a hammer is too “over the top” and well…just dumb…in any event the Franciscan cardinal isn’t there forever.

  9. ajf1984 says:

    This rather puts Cardinal Sarah’s comments about the Church experiencing a Good Friday moment into new light, for on which day of the year does the Latin Church not celebrate Mass? Good Friday…and now it seems that there will at least be fewer Masses being celebrated at the center of Western Christianity. Not good.

  10. Every time I see some new anvil dropping from our shepherds, I think of Matthew 23:13: “But woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men, for you yourselves do not enter in; and those that are going in, you suffer not to enter.”

    Our Lord gives us the consolation of seeing laid out in Scripture that He has foreseen all of this.

  11. Gab says:

    I cannot see the logic behind this decision. It does appear to be diabolical.

  12. DBuote says:

    If authentic, this will turn out to be the greatest tragedy of the current pontificate.

    Thankfully there are many other altars around Rome, which hopefully will be available for use without too much difficulty. Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini may have lines of priests waiting to say Mass in the future!

  13. Littlemore says:

    Slightly tangential,
    In 1888, on one of the altars of the Basilica of St. Peter, a priest ready to pray the Holy Mass, looked restlessly around him because his altar boy did not appear. A bishop, who was kneeling nearby, approached him and said very simply:

    – Allow me, Father, that I be the assistant of your Mass.
    – No, Excellency, I will not allow it. It is not convenient for a bishop to act as an altar boy.
    -Why not? I assure you I can do it.
    – I don’t doubt that, Excellency. But it would be a lot of humiliation. No, I will not allow it.
    – Quiet. Quick to the altar; begins: “Introibo ad altare Dei …”

    That said, the Bishop knelt and the priest had to yield. Assisted by his new assistant, the priest celebrated Mass with great emotion. At the end he undid in thanks to the Bishop. That pious assistant, twenty years older than the priest, was Bishop Giuseppe Sarto, future Pope Pius X, one of the greatest pontiffs and saints of the Catholic Church.

    Saint Pius X, pray for us
    Further reading reveals young priest was Eugenio Pacelli future Pius XII

  14. ChrisP says:

    When you’ve sold out an entire country to the CCP, ignoring SC 57 from VII and your own fellow priests is a walk in the park.

    May God have Mercy on them.

    Postscript, Question:

    PF has constantly likened the Church to a field hospital.

    Why has no one asked him point blank in interview, why does he go along with closing his hospitals un-necessarily and removing its vital function ie. the Mass.?

  15. Tominellay says:

    A sad thing to read, and it seems to me an unnecessary move.

  16. Clinton R. says:

    Thank you, Littlemore, for that anecdote about Pope St. Pius X. I pray to him for his intercession everyday. What a kind, loving and truly humble man he was, faithfully guiding the Church with clear and concise teaching. I wonder if the faithful during his pontificate realized what a gift from God they had?

    On the feast day of Josephine Bakhita last month, I read she received her First Holy Communion and Confirmation from the future Pope Pius X when he was Archbishop Giuseppe Sarto in Venice. A meeting of 2 future saints, not unlike Ss Ambrose and Augustine. May the prayers of these and all saints with the Grace of God see us through these tumultuous days. +JMJ+

  17. Dan says:

    @Littlemore thank you for that beautiful story. I tried not to blubber to much as I read it to my wife.

    This seems all the more related to the desecration of the alter in St. Peters that occurred during the Amazonian SINod. Am I correct that it still remains unused to this day?

    Even during the Middle Ages as the Mass was experimented with the idea that each Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice has a defined value before God developed. This is the whole reason for the many altars in St. Peters to begin with so that each priest may offer that sacrifice.

    More Masses more graces. why can’t the numbskulls get that in their heads? It seems nothing less than a deliberate plot to destroy the Church.

  18. Kathleen10 says:

    Now is the time for making their actions clear. No more subtleties or worrying about how things will be received. They feel bold, and with good reason. Unfortunately we’ve shown them there is no consequence, and all they fear is the material world.

  19. iamlucky13 says:

    I’m not even a TLM attendee, but I feel rather alarmed reading the words “authorized priests.”

    That said, saying “This time of Lent…” implies the reasoning does not carry the same weight outside of Lent. It’s not much to go on, but it’s seems worthwhile to press for the practice to be restored once Lent ends.

  20. TNCath says:

    The abolition of Latin at Masses at St. Peter’s will be next. This is all part of The Evil One’s master plan to destroy the Church from within, driving pilgrims away from visiting Rome.

  21. This action just leaves deep scratch marks on my already deeply scratched head. What is the point? What problem does this solve?

  22. Let’s say this suppression is for real. What if a whole crowd of priests just goes in every day and simply ignores it? What could the Powers That Be do about that?

  23. clare joseph says:

    The article in the National Catholic Register on this almost unbelievable development points out that the letter announcing this decision is not even addressed to the new archpriest of the basilica – which is very strange – and elaborates on this point:

    I think there will be more questions about the letter’s authenticity, and – all the more – a strong backlash to this bizarre decision. I pray that priests high and low will make their voices heard.

  24. Pingback: Francis Effect: The End of the Traditional Latin Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica | Catholicism Pure & Simple

  25. Littlemore says:

    Clinton R at 4.27 12th March 2021..I’ve just recalled another story about Pope Pius XII. His mother had told him when he was a newly ordained priest that he had become a priest because of this plain ring on her third finger left hand. He had come from a humble household and remained humble throughout his life.
    This story was told during our wedding over 30 years ago by the Parish Priest, who although orthodox, was not by any means a friend of the TLM

  26. Littlemore says:

    Oops, got carried away with my roman numerals.. should be Pope Pius X

  27. hilltop says:

    Perhaps others may know this:
    Is this action the sort of thing that is promulgated without Papal knowledge and approval?

  28. JonPatrick says:

    The term “unauthorized” makes me think of this scene from the movie “Interstellar”.

    Like Dr. Mann in this scene, when we try to go against the natural order of things due to our pride, nothing good can happen. Some in the church seem to be hell bent on going down a certain path that cannot have a good end.

  29. Danteewoo says:

    Littlemore, great story about the future Pope Pius X serving Mass for a priest in 1888. But he wasn’t serving it for the future Pius XII, who was born in 1876.

  30. Littlemore says:

    Danteewoo, thanks, yes I looked up also these 2 pontiffs and realised that the timeline didn’t fit. How the would identity of the priest saying the Mass served by Sarto be discovered?

  31. WVC says:

    I dislike concelebration not just because it’s theologically muddled and liturgically pointless, I dislike it because it looks stupid and makes the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass equivalent to my 5th grade health class where, in order to keep her students actively engaged, the teacher made us read the book out loud with each student reading one sentence at a time. When I see priests stepping up, one a time, to say their little small bit of the “Eucharistic Prayer” and then step back into the background, it feels like I’m watching a skit being put on in a retirement home. And then when there’s a gaggle of priests hovering in a semi-circle holding their hands up during the consecration, it looks like the ending of Kung Fu Panda 3.

    Is it any wonder that so many today have lost any concept of human dignity and are more than willing to put 2 or 3 masks over their face?

  32. Pingback: Wherein doubt about the St. Peter’s Mass Suppression Decree is suppressed | Fr. Z's Blog

  33. Eoin Suibhne says:

    You speak for me, also, Anita Moore, O.P.(lay), when you ask: “What if a whole crowd of priests just goes in every day and simply ignores it? What could the Powers That Be do about that?”

    What indeed? I could see the snakes easily preventing a priest here or there from trying, but a huge, organized “Mass-in,” if you will… What a sight that would be.

  34. Pingback: Card. Burke reacts to the St. Peter’s Mass Suppression: rescind it immediately | Fr. Z's Blog

  35. TonyO says:

    My first thought was: This makes me ill.

    Second: Is there ANY benefit to be had in starting a signature drive / campaign to request a recall of this decision?

    Third: Just what Anita Moore said above: Since so many altars will NOT be in use, what’s the problem if a priest shows up and just takes one to say mass? Sure, I know it is kind and considerate to check in with the sacristy, but … so? Don’t bother telling them what they would rather not know, right?

  36. kurtmasur says:

    TonyO wrote:

    My first thought was: This makes me ill. (It makes me ill as well!)

    Second: Is there ANY benefit to be had in starting a signature drive / campaign to request a recall of this decision? (Exactly my thoughts.)

    Third: Just what Anita Moore said above: Since so many altars will NOT be in use, what’s the problem if a priest shows up and just takes one to say mass? Sure, I know it is kind and considerate to check in with the sacristy, but … so? Don’t bother telling them what they would rather not know, right?

    (Although this is theoretically possible, have you ever seen the security in St. Peter’s Basilica? Their guards/ushers tend to be very aggressive, grumpy and unfriendly. I can totally picture a scenario in which they start to tell a priest heading to a side altar to celebrate a private Mass: “prego! Scuse! It is not allowed!” while raising their voice.)

  37. Pingback: On the St. Peter’s Mass Suppression Stunt viewed from the Left | Fr. Z's Blog

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