I write to you as a brother in the episcopal college charged by the Holy Father to carry
out the provisions of his apostolic letter Ecclesia Dei of July 2, 1988. My objective is
addressing myself to you now is precisely to encourage you in the exercise of your
pastoral mission to those who legitimately request the celebration of Holy Mass according
to the 1962 typical edition of the Roman Missal.
Perhaps a review of developments which led to the issuance of Ecclesia Dei would
be helpful in this regard.
1.On Oct. 3, 1984, the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship issued Quattuor Abhinc
Annos, in which the Holy Father granted to diocesan bishops "the possibility of
using an indult whereby priests and faithful . . . may be able to celebrate Mass by using
the Roman Missal according to the 1962 edition."
The following conditions were stipulated: a)that those requesting the permission do not
"call into question the legitimacy and doctrinal exactitude of the Roman Missal
promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970"; b)that such celebrations take place only for
groups requesting them, not in parish churches (except with the bishop's permission in
extraordinary cases) and under conditions laid down by the bishop; c)that "these
celebrations must be according to the 1962 missal and in Latin"; d)that there
"be no interchanging of texts and rites of the two missals" and e)that each
bishop had to inform the congregation "of the concessions granted by him and at the
end of a year from the granting of this indult, he must report on the result of its
2.A special commissio cardinalitia ad hoc ipsum instituta charged with reviewing
the use made of the indult met in December of 1986. At that time the cardinals unanimously
agreed that the conditions laid down in Quattuor Abhinc Annos were too
restrictive and should be relaxed.
3.As you well know, responses to the illicit ordination of bishops at Econe on June 30,
1988, and wishing to uphold the principles which had been established in the previous and
unfortunately unfruitful dialogue with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Holy Father issued Ecclesia
Dei motu proprio on July 2, 1988.
While insisting that the root of the schismatic act of Archbishop Lefebvre lies in an
"incomplete and contradictory notion of tradition" which fails to "take
sufficiently into account the living character of tradition", he also maintained with
equal firmness that it is necessary that all the pastors and other faithful have a new
awareness not only of the lawfulness, but also of the richness for the Church of a
diversity of charisms, traditions of spirituality and apostolate."
Consequently, addressing himself "to all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to
some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition" and not just
to former adherents of Archbishop Lefebvre, he expressed his will "to guarantee
respect for their rightful aspirations." In order to provide for these legitimate
desires of the faithful he established this pontifical commission and indicated his mind
with regard to its primary task by stating:
"Respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to
the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives
already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for the use of the Roman Missal
according to the typical edition."
Consequently, Your Excellency, we wish to encourage you to facilitate the proper and
reverent celebration of the liturgical rites according to the Roman Missal of 1962
wherever there is genuine desire for this on the part of priests and faithful. This should
not be construed as a promotion of that missal in prejudice to the one promulgated eight
years later, but simply a pastoral provision to meet the "rightful aspirations"
of those who wish to worship according to the Latin tradition as celebrated for centuries.
In the light of our Holy Father's motu proprio, then, we offer the following guidelines
1.There is no reason now why the so-called "Tridentine" Mass cannot be
celebrated in a parish church where this would be a genuine pastoral service to the
faithful asking for it. Care should be taken, of course, for a harmonious integration into
the already existing parish liturgical schedule.
2.The regularity and frequency of the celebration of this liturgy, whether to be
celebrated on Sundays, holy days and/or weekdays, will depend on the needs of the
faithful. Our recommendation is that in places where the faithful have made a request for
the regular celebration for the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal a weekly Sunday
and holy day Mass be scheduled in a central location and at a convenient time on a trial
basis for a period of several months. Afterwards further evaluation and adjustment could
3.Of course the celebrant of the "Tridentine" Mass should not fail in their
preaching and contacts with the faithful attending such Masses to emphasize their own
adherence to the legislation of the universal church and their acknowledgment of the
doctrinal and juridical value of the liturgy as revisited after the Second Vatican
Council. Under such conditions, it would seem unnecessary, even unduly painful, to impose
further restrictions upon those who wish to attend such celebrations.
The very fact that, avoiding the possibilities offered by schismatic groups, they wish to
come to celebrations authorized by the bishop of the diocese may be considered a sign of
good will and desire of full ecclesial communion.
4.Although the Holy Father has given this pontifical commission the faculty to grant the
use of the 1962 typical edition of the Roman Missal to all those who request it while the
commission informs the appropriate ordinary thereof, we would much prefer that such
faculties be granted by the ordinary himself for the sake of strengthening the bond of
ecclesial communion between those priests and faithful and their local pastors.
5.Following upon the "wide and generous application" of the principles laid down
in Quattuor Abhinc Annos and the directives of the fathers of the Second Vatican
Council (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, nos. 51 and 54), the new lectionary in the
vernacular could be used as a way of "providing a richer fare for the faithful at the
table of God's Word" in Masses celebrated according to the 1962 missal. However, we
believe that this usage should not be imposed on congregations who decidedly wish to
maintain the former liturgical tradition in its integrity according to the provision of
the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei. Such an imposition might also be less likely to
invite back to full communion with the Church at this time those who have lapsed into
6.Since a number of older and retired priests who have a deep appreciation of the previous
Latin liturgical tradition have approached their individual ordinaries as well as this
pontifical commission to obtain the celebret for the use of the 1962 missal, it
would seem particularly suitable to utilize the services of such priests where possible
for the celebration of this Mass. It may well be discovered that even retired priests who
have not requested this faculty would nonetheless be willing to provide this special form
of pastoral care for those who request it.
Finally, Your Excellency, it is my sincere desire that this fraternal letter will be for
us who are members of the episcopal college an incentive to exercise that munus
episcopale described so beautifully in Lumen Gentium, 23:
"Individual bishops, insofar as they are set over particular churches, exercise their
pastoral office over the portion of the people of God assigned to them, not over other
churches nor the church universal. But insofar as they are members of the episcopal
college and legitimate successors of the apostles by Christ's arrangement and decree, each
is bound to have such care and solicitude for the whole church which, though it be not
exercised by an act of jurisdiction, does for all that redound in an eminent degree to the
advantage of the universal Church. For all the bishops have the obligation of fostering
and safeguarding the unity of the faith and of upholding the discipline which is common to
the whole Church."
I am pleased to avail myself of this opportunity to extend my best wishes to you in your
shepherding of the flock entrusted to your care and to assure you of my willing
collaboration that in all circumstances God may be glorified in the worship of his Holy
Cardinal Paul Augustine Mayer, President