.- The road leading to St. Peter’s Square was packed on Saturday morning: but not with the usual tourists or merchants. Instead, a long line of pilgrims processed along the street carrying candles and singing hymns.
They were participants in an international pilgrimage to Rome celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass made widely available by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2007.
Bishop Fernando Areas Rifan of the Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney in Brazil spoke to CNA about his participation in the journey.
“I am here for this pilgrimage to give my support and even the correct orientation of this pilgrimage. We are Catholics, united to the Holy See, with the blessing of the Holy Father, Francis,” he said Oct. 26.
Saturday’s procession ended at the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica, where a Solemn Pontifical Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Columbia.
An estimated 1,000 laity and religious from Italy, the US, France, Brazil, Switzerland, Germany and elsewhere joined in prayer as the incense rose to the ceiling of the ancient Basilica and the gospel was chanted in Latin.
North Carolinian Noah Carter, who served as deacon, told CNA that it was a joy to be able to “experience things that are not a part of daily life, and benefit from the riches that go before us.”
“I enjoy the ability to worship in the Extraordinary Form,” he said. “I think a lot of people can benefit from what the Church has benefitted from since the 600s – that’s 1500 years of the Mass that sanctified so many Christians.”
Carter noted that the Extraordinary Form may not “be for everyone: some people don’t connect with that form of worship.”
But in Carter’s home diocese of Charlotte, NC and elsewhere, interest in the older form of the Mass is growing.
“I think young people don’t fit the ‘attack’ that is often made on most people who attend the extraordinary form. They are not nostalgic: they didn’t grow up with it,” he explained.
“But it is a clear expression of Catholic culture: explicitly Catholic music, Catholic symbols, Catholic signs. There is no way to confuse it with something that is non-Catholic.”
After growing up in a world that often identifies faith with social service, “the youth want to identify with something that shows clearly what it is to be Catholic.”
Bishop Rifan expressed his belief that the ancient form of the Mass can contribute to the Church’s efforts at a new evangelization by providing “sense of mystery, this sense of (the) sacred. I think that the traditional Mass can help many souls – many priests, many faithful – in order to respect (the) Eucharist,” he said.
Deacon Carter shared a similar hope: “the Extraordinary Form speaks, literally (because it is in Latin), and figuratively, a different language; and I think some people who need to can come back to faith through it.”
Since often people have been driven away by abuses in the liturgy, Carter emphasized the need to celebrate both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass in a reverent manner.
In so doing, the Church “will allow people to come back in different ways.” The two forms of the Mass, according to Carter, act as “two sides to the same coin: a very strong part of the new evangelization that will allow people to enter into the public life of the liturgy in different ways."
This weekend’s pilgrimage also included other events such as a meeting of priests with Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, praying the way of the Cross on the Palatine Hill in Rome, and Eucharistic Adoration in the Santa Maria in Vallicella Church.