Canons of St. Peter’s forbidden to enter Basilica for the May Rosary

At the Italian blog Messa in Latino we receive news about the Canons of St. Peter’s Basilica that was in Il Messaggero.

What, who are canons?

There are all sorts of canons.  “Canon” is applied to the list of books of Scripture, the individual laws in a collection called the Code, and to certain persons.

In the Roman, Latin Church among the things that canon can mean is a members of a group called a chapter (capitulum) or college.  Historically they would live together.  Today, not so much.   Cathedrals and great churches had chapters which saw to the financial and material issues of the buildings, holdings, etc.   They had also a liturgical role to sing the office and to be present at liturgical functions.   Canons had particular dress and their living from the chapter.

In Europe there are still chapters, but these structures have disappeared in these USA.

The major basilicas of Rome have chapters of canons, including St. Peter’s.    The 24 main canons (there are other “honorary canons”, clerics who need some income) have been an important component of the whole life of this important basilica.   They have for centuries been present for papal functions.  They have participated in the administration of the goods, holdings and buildings associated with the basilica.   They have their own chapel in St. Peter’s and a sacristy.

For centuries, indeed a millennium, since at least the 10th century, canons have been central to the life of St. Peter’s, old and new.

Messa in Latino reports something from Il Messaggero:

The Pope forbids Canons to enter St. Peter’s

1 May 2021 by Franca Giansoldati

Vatican City – “Forbidden to enter St. Peter’s.  Today the canons of the Basilica cannot enter.  Orders from Superiors.”  This is the phrase uttered by an embarrassed worker at the Basilica, delivered to the disconcerted Canons of St. Peter’s who today had desired to participate in the Rosary with Pope Francis.


For some time now, however, the canons – there are about thirty of them – seem to be in Pope Francis’ crosshairs. It is probably one of those sectors in which he would like to bring some order.  A few years ago the Pope, seeing two canons during a solemn function serving behind the Cardinals in their usual fuchsia-colored garb, it is said that the dumbfounded Pope asked who were “those two priests dressed in technicolor”.


After the Suppression of individual Masses in St. Peter’s, and now this, one wonders what we might read in the near future.

“St. Peter’s converted to museum.  Residual liturgies moved to Paul VI Audience Hall.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Ave Maria says:

    Maybe they are not homosexual?

  2. Aliquis says:

    Do you know if this is a permanent ban? Or just for today and/or while Francis is supposed to be there?

  3. JacobWall says:

    Are the Canons Regular of St. John Castius in Chicago an example of the same structure in the US?

  4. ChrisP says:

    Another case of action with minimal reasons given, at least reported. So much for the field hospital analogy – Pope Francis seems a little tetchy at the moment.

  5. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    Dear JacobWall,

    No, the Canons Regular are distinct from chapter canons of a cathedral (or of a capitular church of similar secular canons, but there can be very few of those left in post revolutionary Europe, perhaps some in Spain). Cathedral (secular) canons are priests of the Diocese, usually senior, thus implying some elevated rank and status, whereas Canons Regular (the ancient orders – Augustinian, Lateran, Norbertine, etc, or modern – of S John Cantius, of the Mother of God etc) are congregations of religious priests, of all ages, who live in community and generally have as their apostolate the solemn and dignified celebration of the Liturgy, each order being different. By tradition, in fulfilment of this, their churches are usually large and beautiful.

  6. Traductora says:

    Traditionally, many of the canons were very learned men. Those that I have met in other cathedrals where they still exist, such as some of those in Spain, certainly are. And they were very devoted to the cathedral and its history.

    I can see why Bergoglio might not find them to his taste. This is very sad for the canons.

  7. kurtmasur says:

    Pope Francis strikes again.

    Just one more example of the Church’s persecution.

    The only thing we can be sure of is that this is not the last thing on the list.

    “St. Peter’s converted to museum. Residual liturgies moved to Paul VI Audience Hall.” I wish I could take that as satire, but the sad part is that this statement sounds quite realistic, Father :-/

  8. kurtmasur says:

    Meanwhile, while the Canons of St Peter’s are DENIED access to their church during a rosary, I read today that in Barcelona they are letting members of the “religion of peace” go and have their Ramadan meal inside a Catholic church:

    Perhaps the clergy who authorized this are wanting to earn points from Francis in the hopes of becoming a Monsignor or even ordained into the episcopate? Ha!

    Somebody needs to confront these “Church of nice” clergy and ask them if the mosques in Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere) would allow Christians to have a supper inside their mosques.

  9. GHP says:

    Fr.Z: After the Suppression of individual Masses in St. Peter’s, and now this, one wonders what we might read in the near future.

    “St. Peter’s converted to museum. Residual liturgies moved to Paul VI Audience Hall.”

    Hagia Sophia of Rome?

  10. Chrisc says:

    Seeing as this is about St Peter’s and you mentioned her the other day, Fatherz, Ann Barnhardt claims the last mass on the main altar in St Peter’s was the pachamama fiasco. Is there anyway you know of to verify this? It wouldn’t surprise me if this were the case from January 2020 until now, but nothing between 29 October 2019 and Jan 2020 seems odd.

  11. FrankWalshingham says:

    The Canons of the Holy Cross are a very orthodox group that has a foundation here in the US. Was very disappointed when they moved from the convent at Assumption Grotto Shrine here in Detroit and moved in to their own digs down in Ohio. If you ever have a chance to catch one of their retreats, they are excellent preachers.

  12. Matheus Oliveira says:

    Chrisc, I cannot say anything about that period either. However, past Sunday (4th of Easter, NO), Pope Francis celebrated Mass on the Confessio Altar on the occasion of the usual (except for last year) Good-Shepherd-Sunday-Priestly-Ordinations. I neatly felt it was like the Easter light shining once again through all this situation, something particularly hope-inspiring. After quite a while it was quite a sight!

  13. Grabski says:

    Copernicus was a canon at the cathedral in I believe Frombork

  14. Fr. Kelly says:

    Chrisc and Matthaeus Oliveira ask whether the claim that this was the first Mass offered at the Papal Altar since the Demon goddess was enthroned there.
    It seems it was.
    This leads with the point that Francis has not offered Mass there in over a year.
    That takes us well back into the time covered by Maike Hickson’s investigation which she published on onepeterfive.
    Together, these show that this was the first time back at the Papal Altar.

  15. Rod Halvorsen says:

    Father Z: Would you care to expound on what you think is going on here?

    As well as what the point of suppressing Mass at the side altars is?

  16. Chrisc says:

    Fr. Kelly, I have searched 1P5, and am unable to find Dr Hickson’s story. Could you elaborate on why their were no masses celebrated by the pope on the main altar during the Fall of 2019? To be clear, I don’t know what to make of this, but it would seem rather strange.

  17. JakeMC says:

    I don’t think anyone, outside of Francis himself and his closest confreres, knows what the point is of suppressing Mass at the side altars or forbidding the canons access to St. Peter’s. Any reasons given to the press seem to be full of the kind of wordy statements that essentially have no substance, which sadly have plagued many Church documents since the 1960s. Though now that we hear that, for the first time since that disaster of idolatry, the main altar of St. Peter’s is in use, and that really just dangles a question begging to be asked…not that anyone will give us a straight answer.

  18. Fr. Kelly says:

    This matter becomes more confusing to me every time I look into it. I went looking for the Maike Hickson piece. It seems she published it on Lifesitenews rather than 1P5, and her claim is something a little less than I understood, but astonsihing and scandalous nonetheless.
    Here is her piece quoted from free republic:

    In the article, she makes reference to Christmas Vigil Mass in 2019 (complete with video) at the papal altar.

    She gives the timeline as:
    Oct 27, 2019 — demon goddess enthroned on altar
    Francis gives up title “Vicar of Christ”, declaring it a “Historical Title”
    Vatican locks down for coronavirus and along with it, St. Peter’s
    Easter Mass is offered at the Altar of the Chair.
    The papal altar is left empty — perhaps from Christmas 2019 on…

    That’s the best I can recollect for now, and I won’t speculate as to the “why” of these things, except to go to confession, flee under the mantle of Our Lady, and hold up my end in spiritual warfare.

  19. kurtmasur says:

    @Chrisc: I don’t think it’s correct to say that no masses were celebrated by the pope on the main altar of St. Peter’s during the Fall of 2019.

    If you go to the Vatican TV channel on youtube, click on their “videos” section, you will see all of the Pope’s activities archived in chronological order. If you scroll down to 2019, you will find the Pope’s masses for that time, almost all of which were on the main altar.

    There was one exception: a mass for the Congolese community celebrated at the Altar of the Chair….clicked on it out of curiosity….more than I needed to see in terms of “liturgical” music. And I thought that the music for Our Lady of Guadalupe mass at St. Peter’s was bad as it was…it actually pales in comparison to the Congolese mass :-/

  20. Fr. Kelly says: papal altar is left empty

    There was recently an ordination to the priesthood for the Diocese of Rome in St. Peter’s, at the main altar.

  21. TonyO says:

    A few years ago the Pope, seeing two canons during a solemn function serving behind the Cardinals in their usual fuchsia-colored garb, it is said that the dumbfounded Pope asked who were “those two priests dressed in technicolor”.

    The source of that “it is said” was, of course, expressing subjectively how it appeared to him that the pope was reacting to seeing said canons. The pope might not have been “dumbfounded” in reality, but “curious” or “puzzled”, or any of a number of other things.

    But accepting the assertion at face value: it takes a particularly naive and dense person with an antipathy to custom to react badly to a customary practice that they simply had not yet encountered, in a place they are new to. You know, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” is a valid principle in ALL places, but has even more force within the Church, and ipso facto even more force within “THE church” of Christendom. The Church founded by Christ on Peter the Rock has, as one of its essential features, the steadfast maintenance of the institutional knowledge that is meant by the term “Tradition”, the handing down of “what we have received” from the Apostles (and through them, from Christ). It is necessary and inescapable that the Church is conservative in that it conserves what Christ gave her. A mentality that reacts to even small “t” traditions within the Church with a pre-set antipathy is a mentality that harbors dangerous bigotry.

  22. Fr. Kelly says:

    The recent ordinations was the first Mass offered on that altar in over a year according to CNS, and several other sources.

    To me that seems very strange if true.

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