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.
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.”
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Canon 902 of the Code of Canon Law states that priests “are completely free to celebrate the Eucharist individually...but not while a concelebration is taking place in the same church or oratory.” Despite the letter of Canon 902, the practice of many Masses celebrated at the same time in St. Peter’s was a longstanding tradition that predates the Code of Canon Law.
The general daily Mass schedule in St. Peter's Basilica lists one Mass per hour from 9 a.m. to noon, in Italian, at the Altar of the Chair. There is another Mass in Italian at 8.30 a.m. at the altar of the Most Holy Sacrament, while every day at 5 p.m., there is a Mass in Latin.
On Sundays, there are five Masses celebrated in Italian and one in Latin.
The release of the letter was not accompanied by any kind of official Vatican communication, and it lacks a protocol number, a typical feature of communications of this type. Nor was the letter signed in full by Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, who heads the First Section of the Secretariat of State, but instead included only his initials.