Questions and Answers on Summorum Pontificum :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)
Questions and Answers on Summorum Pontificum
By United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)




Twenty Questions on the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum

1. What is the purpose of Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum?

By this Apostolic Letter, promulgated motu proprio, the Holy Father seeks an "interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church" 1 with those who have demonstrated an attachment to preconciliar liturgical forms, making "it possible for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew."

Thus does he exhort the whole Church to "generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows."2

2. How does the Apostolic Letter describe the preconciliar edition of the Missale Romanum?

The Holy Father begins by defining two forms of the rule of prayer (Lex orandi) of the Latin church of Roman Rite: an ordinary form, as contained in the Missale Romanum of Pope Paul VI, 3 and an extraordinary form, as contained in the Missale Romanum of Pope Saint Pius V. (4) He notes that the extraordinary form was never abrograted and the two forms make up the Liturgy of the one Roman Rite.'


3. When may a Priest celebrate the extraordinary form in a Mass without the people?

Any Priest of the Latin Church may, without any further permission from the Holy See or his Ordinary, celebrate the extraordinary form of the Missale Romanum in a Mass without the people at any time except during the Sacred Triduum. (6) If members of the faithful wish to join in these celebrations, they are permitted to do so!


4. May the extraordinary form be used in religious communities?

Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life who wish to do so may celebrate according to the extraordinary form in their own oratories.(8)


1 Pope Benedict XVI, Cover letter to the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum.

2 Ibid.

3 This Missal was most recently promulgated in 2001 as the third typical edition, by the Servant of God, John Paul


4 This Missal was most recently promulgated in 1962 as the seventh typical edition by the Blessed John XXIII.

5 Cf. Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum [SP], article 1.

6 Cf. SP, no. 2.

7 Cf. SP, no. 4.

8 Cf. SP, no. 3.


5. When may the extraordinary form be used in parishes?

In parishes where a group of the faithful are attached to the extraordinary form of the Mass, they may approach the pastor, who is to support their petition willingly. No permissions are required.9


6. May the extraordinary form of the other sacraments also be celebrated?

For the good of souls, a pastor may also grant permission for the celebration of the other Sacraments, Christian Funerals or other occasional celebrations according to the extraordinary form, when requested to do so by priests or a group of the faithful.10


7. If a priest fails to demonstrate a minimum rubrical or linguistic ability to celebrate the

extraordinary form, may he still celebrate the 1962 Missale Romanum?

No. In order to celebrate the extraordinary form, a Priest must be suitably qualified for and not prohibited by any impediments to the celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum. 11 This means he must have the minimum knowledge and ability required for a legitimate use of the extraordinary form.

8. As a rule, is it possible for a priest to abandon the ordinary form entirely?

No. The Holy Father states unequivocally that "in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness."12


9. What happens if a pastor is unable to fulfill the request of the faithful?

"Should some problem arise which the parish priest cannot resolve, the local Ordinary will always be able to intervene, in full harmony, however, with all that has been laid down by the new norms of the Motu Proprio."13 Should the local ordinary be unable to respond to the request, it may be referred to the Ecclesia Dei Commission."

10. Is the role of the Diocesan Bishop in supervising the Sacred Liturgy diminished by this

Apostolic Letter?

No. The norms "do not in any way lessen the Bishop's own authority and responsibility, either for the liturgy or for the pastoral care of [the] faithful. Each Bishop, in fact, is the moderator of the liturgy in his own Diocese." 15 As such, he is required both to implement the universal norms of the Church as well as to intervene to prevent abuses from arising with regard to liturgical celebrations in his diocese.


9 Cf. SP, no. 5§1.

10 Cf. SP, no. 5§3 and 9§1.

11 Cf. SP, no. 5§4.

12 Pope Benedict XVI, Cover letter to the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum.

13 Ibid.

14 Cf. SP, no. 7.

15 Ibid.



11. What other provisions are made for use of the extraordinary form?

The Bishop may celebrate the Rite of of Confirmation according to the extraordinary form as found in the edition of the Roman Pontifical in effect in 1962. 16 Clerics in Holy Orders may use the Roman Breviary of Blessed John XXIII promulgated in 1962.17


12. When the extraordinary form is celebrated, what calendar and Lectionary may be used?

Whenever the extraordinary form of the Roman Liturgy is celebrated, the vernacular edition of the Lectionary for Mass may be used, while the calendar of the Missal of Blessed John XXIII is followed! 8 The Ecclesia Dei Commission has been charged with studying the eventual incorporation of new saints and some of the prefaces of the revised Missale into the Missale Romanum of Blessed John XXIII.


13. Who regulates the implementation of this Apostolic Letter?


The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei is charged with assuring proper observance and application of the norms of the Aposotlic Letter.


14. Does the wider use of the extraordinary form of the rites of Holy Week reflect a change in the Church's teaching on anti-Semitism ?


No. The 1962 Missale Romanum already reflected Blessed John XXIII' s revision of liturgical language often construed as anti-Semitic. In 1965, the watershed statement Nostra Aetate, of the Second Vatican Council then repudiated all forms of anti-Semitism as having no place within Christian life. When Pope Paul VI issued the Missale Romanum of 1969, the only prayer for the Jewish people in the Roman liturgy was completely revised for Good Friday to reflect a renewed understanding of the Jews as God's chosen people, "first to hear the word of God."

Throughout his papacy, John Paul II worked effectively to reconcile the Church with the Jewish people and to strengthen new bonds of friendship. In 1988, Pope John Paul II gave permission for the Mass to be celebrated according the Missale Romanum of 1962 only as a pastoral provision to assist Catholics who remained attached to the previous rites, thereby hoping to develop closer bonds with the family of the Church.


By this new Apostolic Letter, Pope Benedict XVI is merely extending such permission for wider

pastoral application, but remains committed to "the need to overcome past prejudices, misunderstandings, indifference and the language of contempt and hostility [and to continue] the Jewish-Christian enrich and deepen the bonds of friendship which have developed."19


15. Where may Bishops turn for support and assistance with the implementation of the Apostolic Letter and the supervision of the extraordinary form of the Roman Liturgy?


The Committee on the Liturgy and its Secretariat are charged by the USCCB with the supervision of the implementation of the provisions of Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, and will continue to provide support and advice on this important pastoral initiative.


16. Prior to the publication of this Apostolic Letter, what provisions have been in force?


By a the letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (Quattuor abhinc annos, 1984), Pope John Paul II granted to diocesan Bishops the use of an indult whereby priests and faithful would be allowed to celebrate the 1962 edition of the Missale Romanum, providing that such priests or faithful: (1) accepted the legitimacy and doctrinal exactitude of the post-conciliar Missale Romanum; (2) celebrated these rites in a church designated by the bishop; (3) and celebrated these rites according to the 1962 Missale Romanum, without intermingling the post-conciliar rites. Pope John Paul II encouraged Bishops to make "a wide and generous application" of this indult in the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei Afflicta (1988).



16 Cf. SP, no. 9§2.

17 Cf. SP, no. 9§3.

18 Cf. SP, nos. 11 and 12.

19 Pope Benedict XVI, On the occasion of the 40 th anniversary of the promulgation of Nostra Aetate, October 27,



17. How does the new Apostolic Letter differ from these previous provisions?


The Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI differs from the previous provisions in the following ways:



Quattuor Abhinc Annos and

Ecclesia Dei Adflicta

Summorum Pontificum

What books may be


The 1962 Missale Romanum

The 1962 Missale Romanum and all other Roman liturgical rites in force in 1962

Who may permit the use

of these books?

The Diocesan Bishop may grant

permission to priests or groups of the faithful at his discretion, but should be wide and generous in application of this indult


Any Priest of the Latin Church may celebrate the extraordinary form privately. Pastors are asked to receive willingly the request of groups of the faithful for the Mass and the Sacraments according to the extraordinary form.

Who supervises the

celebration of the

Liturgy of either form?

The Diocesan Bishop supervises the correct celebration of all liturgical rites. The Diocesan Bishop must report to the Holy See on progress of indults he has granted

"The Diocesan Bishop maintains vigilance over the correct celebration of all liturgical rites, both ordinary and extraordinary. If the pastor is unable to respond to the request of a group of the

faithful, the Bishop receives the request. If the Bishop is not able to respond, the matter may be referred to the Ecclesia Dei Commission, which enjoys competence over the extraordinary rite on behalf of the Holy See.

Where may celebrations

of the extraordinary

form take place?

Celebrations take place only in a
place designated by the Diocesan
Bishop, but usually not in a parish Church.


There is no restriction on where the extraordinary form may be celebrated.

Must those celebrating

the older form

acknowledge the current

liturgical books?

A condition of granting the indult is acknowledgement of the legitimacy and doctrinal exactitude of the current Missale Romanum.


There is no requirement for a determination of acceptance of the current Roman Missal by those seeking to celebrate the extraordinary form, although this appears to be presumed.


May rites from the two

forms be mixed?

No admixture of the rites of the 1962 and current editions of the Missale .Romanum is allowed.

The vernacular edition of the Lectionary for Mass may be used in the extraordinary form, while the 1962 calendar is to be followed. The Ecclesia Dei Commission will study the eventual integration of new saints and some prefaces from the ordinary form into the extraordinary Missal.

18. Why are the present norms not adequate to meet these needs?


In his cover letter, the Holy Father notes that while the present norms have been applied to good pastoral effect in many circumstances, difficulties remain "because of the lack of precise juridical norms, particularly because Bishops, in such cases, frequently feared that the authority of the Council would be called into question." 20 The new norms are intended "to free Bishops from constantly having to evaluate anew how they are to respond to various situations." 21


19. Does this action call into question the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council?


No. The Holy Father makes clear that the current Missale Romanum is the ordinary form (forma

ordinaria) of the Eucharistic Liturgy. The extraordinary form is found in the 1962 Missal of Blessed John XXIII.22


20. When will the Apostolic Letter take effect?


The Apostolic letter will take effect on September 14, 2007, the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross.

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