Zen made his remarks on his website in an open letter to Cardinal Robert Sarah after the former prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship asked Pope Francis on Monday to reinstate the celebration of private Masses at the side altars in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Zen is the fifth cardinal to voice opposition to the change, which went into effect March 22, after Sarah, Raymond Burke, Gerhard Müller, and Walter Brandmüller.
In his open letter, translated into English by Bree A. Dail, Zen wrote: “It was the thing that strengthened my faith most every time I came to Rome: at exactly seven o’clock I would enter the sacristy (where I almost always would meet that holy man, the Archbishop, then Cardinal Paolo Sardi); a young priest would come forward and would help me to dress in the vestments, and then they take me to an altar (in the Basilica proper or in the grottoes, that would make no difference to me, we were in St. Peter’s Basilica!).”
The new protocols, issued by the First Section of the Vatican Secretariat of State, say that priests will be invited to take part in several concelebrated Masses at St. Peter’s every day but will not be permitted to offer private Masses at the basilica’s many side altars.
It was a long-standing custom that priests would offer individual Masses in the early morning hours at some of the side altars in the basilica. Sometimes priests said the Mass alone or with only a deacon, and other times they would be accompanied by small groups of Catholics.