Under the new protocols, groups of pilgrims, accompanied by a bishop or priest who has booked an altar, will still be permitted to celebrate private Masses in the grottos beneath the Church.
Mass offered in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite will be limited to the Clementine Chapel in the Vatican Grotto under the new protocols.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, former prefect of the Church’s highest court, released a letter March 13 critiquing the decree’s “form and content,” saying that the Secretariat of State lacks the competent authority to issue directives regarding the offering of Mass at St. Peter’s.
As CNA has previously reported, the decree was released by the First Section of the Secretariat of State, an office normally in charge of all the Curial offices' direction and coordination but typically not liturgical celebrations.
The letter from the Secretariat of State is not addressed to the Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, who is in charge of the worship and pastoral activity of the basilica, but to Archbishop Mario Giordana, extraordinary commissioner of the Fabric of St. Peter.
The Fabric of St. Peter does not deal with liturgical celebrations in the Basilica, but is instead charged with its conservation and maintenance.
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Despite the unusual nature of the decree, two Vatican officials who asked for anonymity have confirmed to CNA that the document is real. The Vatican has not publicly commented on the document.
Prior to the change, the 45 altars and 11 chapels in St. Peter's Basilica have been used every morning by priests to celebrate their daily Mass. Many of them are Vatican officials who begin their day with the celebration.
Burke contended that the new decree “imposes concelebration” on priests wishing to celebrate Mass at the basilica, “in violation of his freedom to offer the Holy Mass individually.”