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…”.
No official word yet from the Vatican but an unofficial source in the Secretariat of State is saying the letter is genuine. https://t.co/6wXzqPrUmo
— Edward Pentin (@EdwardPentin) March 12, 2021
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.
VATICAN CITY—Breaking News:
All private masses at St Peter’s have been “suppressed”, per directive of Secretariat of State.
This is developing. pic.twitter.com/3kAXbWgJG6
— Bree A Dail (@breeadail) March 12, 2021
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:
- individual celebrations (of Mass) are suppressed;
- 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.
- Concelebrations will be liturgical animated with the assistance of lectors and cantors;
- 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);
- 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…
WHAT ARE THOSE ALTARS FOR?
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?