Rumors about possible restrictions on Summorum Pontificum spread at the end of May after Pope Francis held a closed-door question-and-answer session with the members of the Italian bishops’ conference gathered in Rome for their annual plenary assembly.
Speaking with the bishops, Francis hinted at new regulations, although he did not provide details, according to two bishops who attended the conference.
In June, Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, described the development as “worrying news.”
He insisted that the extraordinary form was not divisive.
“On the contrary, it unites us to our brothers and sisters of all ages, to the saints and martyrs of all times, to those who have fought for their faith and who have found in it an inexhaustible spiritual nourishment,” he wrote in a blog post.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, who retired as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship in February, posted a series of comments on his Twitter account on July 8 defending Summorum Pontificum.
He wrote: “Following the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, despite difficulties and resistance, the Church embarked on a path of liturgical and spiritual reform, which, though slow, is irreversible.”
“Despite intransigent clerical attitudes in opposition to the venerable Latin-Gregorian liturgy, attitudes typical of the clericalism that Pope Francis has repeatedly denounced, a new generation of young people has emerged in the heart of the Church.”
“This generation is one of young families, who demonstrate that this liturgy has a future because it has a past, a history of holiness and beauty that cannot be erased or abolished overnight.”
The Vatican’s doctrinal congregation asked the world’s bishops last year to report on how Summorum Pontificum was being applied in their dioceses.
Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), wrote to the presidents of bishops’ conferences on March 7, 2020, asking them to distribute a nine-point questionnaire.
The CDF survey included questions such as “In your opinion, are there positive or negative aspects of the use of the extraordinary form?” and “How has the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum had an influence on the life of seminaries (the seminary of the diocese) and other formation houses?”
The questionnaire also asked whether the extraordinary form responds “to a true pastoral need” or was “promoted by a single priest.”
Bishops are asked to say whether they personally used the 1962 Missal and what advice they would offer about the extraordinary form.
In his cover letter, Cardinal Ladaria wrote: “Thirteen years after the publication of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum issued by Pope Benedict XVI, His Holiness Pope Francis wishes to be informed about the current application of the aforementioned document.”
Ladaria asked bishops to send their responses by July 31, 2020.
In his 2007 letter, Benedict XVI asked the world’s bishops “to send to the Holy See an account of your experiences, three years after this motu proprio has taken effect,” in 2010.
The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei issued the 2011 instruction Universae Ecclesiae, clarifying aspects of Summorum Pontificum.
In March 2020, the CDF announced that it had issued two decrees giving new Eucharistic prefaces and provision for the optional celebration of more recently named saints in the extraordinary form.
The decree Quo magis provided seven new Eucharistic prefaces for the extraordinary form of the Mass, which may be used for particular occasions, such as votive Masses or the feast days of saints.
The second decree, Cum sanctissima, established a provision for the celebration of the third-class feasts of saints canonized after July 1960, whose memorials were established after the 1962 Roman Missal.
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