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Cardinal Gregory restricts Traditional Latin Masses to three locations in DC archdiocese

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, addresses the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on September 8, 2021./ Nicholas Kamm /AFP via Getty Images

Cardinal Wilton Gregory announced Friday that the Traditional Latin Mass will be restricted to three locations in the Archdiocese of Washington.

Starting Sept. 21, the Extraordinary Form of the Mass will only be allowed to be offered at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C., St. John the Evangelist in Silver Spring, Maryland, and St. Dominic in Aquasco, Maryland.

Gregory lays out the new liturgical norms for the archdiocese, in response to Pope Francis' 2021 motu proprio Traditionis custodes, in a two-page letter and an accompanying decree obtained by CNA.


The Archdiocese of Washington posted the letter with the decree and liturgical norms online Friday morning.

The new protocol requires priests in the archdiocese to obtain permission to offer the Ordinary Form of the Mass ad orientem, “to the east” in Ecclesiastical Latin, in which the priest and the congregation together face the tabernacle during the Mass.

Ordinary Form Masses offered in either “the vernacular or in Latin will follow the prescribed rubric for ‘versus populum’ unless permission is granted otherwise by the Archbishop of Washington,” according to the policy.

The decree states that all sacraments other than the Eucharist must be celebrated according to the liturgical books promulgated by Paul VI and John Paul II after the Second Vatican Council.

In practice this means that baptisms and weddings in the Extraordinary Form will no longer be allowed in the archdiocese, although post-Vatican II rites can be celebrated with the use of Latin under the new norms, which will be reviewed in three years.

"The intent of these requirements is to foster and make manifest the unity of this local Church, as well as to provide all Catholics in the Archdiocese an opportunity to offer a concrete manifestation of the acceptance of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and its liturgical books," Gregory states.

Other locations in the archdiocese where the Traditional Latin Mass is currently offered are not referenced in the new norms. These include St. Mary Mother of God Church in Chinatown, the campus of Georgetown University campus, and St. Francis de Sales Church near The Catholic University of America, all in Washington, D.C., as well as St. Mary of the Assumption in Marlboro, Maryland, and St. Francis de Sales in Benedict, Maryland. The website maintains a listing of Latin Mass locations in the area.

Monsignor Pope named delegate

Gregory’s announcement of the new policy came less than a week after the anniversary of Pope Francis’ promulgation of Traditionis custodes, a motu proprio which placed sweeping restrictions on the celebration of Mass using the 1962 Roman Missal, also known as the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Tridentine Mass, and the Traditional Latin Mass. 

The Vatican’s Divine Worship dicastery issued a “responsa ad dubia” in December that said that according to Traditionis custodes, sacraments cannot be celebrated using the liturgical books Rituale Romanum and the Pontificale Romanum promulgated before the Vatican II reforms.

Priests in the Washington Archdiocese who wish to offer Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962, either privately or publicly in the archdiocese will be required to obtain written permission. Gregory said that priests making the request must “explicitly affirm in writing, ‘the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform dictated by the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs,’ and demonstrate an appreciation ‘of the value of concelebration, particularly at the Chrism Mass.’”

Monsignor Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., will serve as Gregory's delegate "in the pastoral care" of the designated Latin Mass communities, Gregory states.

"This delegate will also serve as a moderator of all the clergy and instituted members who have received permission to celebrate the Eucharist using the Roman Missal of 1962 to ensure that provisions of Traditionis custodes, the Response ad dubia, and these norms are followed," the decree states.

In his letter, Gregory referenced the faithfulness of many adherents of the Traditional Latin Mass.

“In the time I have served as Archbishop of Washington, I have discovered that the majority of the faithful who participate in these liturgical celebrations in the Archdiocese of Washington are sincere, faith-filled, and well-meaning. Likewise, the majority of priests who celebrate these liturgies are doing their very best to respond pastorally to the needs of the faithful,” Gregory wrote in the letter.

He went on to say, however, “It is clear that the Holy Father’s sincere intention is to bring about greater unity in the Church through the celebration of the Mass and sacraments according to the 1970 Roman Missal of Pope Paul VI, which was the fruit of the renewal in the liturgy that the Second Vatican Council called for."

The neighboring diocese of Arlington, Virginia, issued a directive in January barring baptisms and weddings in the Extraordinary Form that were not already scheduled from taking place in the diocese. Twenty-one of the diocese’s 70 parishes offer the Latin Mass, one of the highest percentages among U.S. dioceses.

Pope Francis signed a decree in February confirming that the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) can continue to use the liturgical books in force in 1962.

This is a developing story.

(Story continues below)

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