Australian archbishop: Catholics will ‘need to adapt’ to liturgy restrictions

Altar prepared for Mass Credit Thoom Shutterstock CNA Thoom/Shutterstock.

Australian Catholics will need to adapt to liturgical restrictions, according to the archbishop of Melbourne, one of a number of Australian bishops to respond to Pope Francis’ sweeping changes to celebrations of the Traditional Latin Mass.

“There are a number of priests in our archdiocese and a good number of God’s people who have been celebrating the Mass in the 1962 ritual of Pope St. John XXIII, and who will now need to adapt and make some adjustments in what can happen in our archdiocese into the future,” Archbishop Peter Comensoli said in a video posted on July 22.

“For some, it will be not an easy moment to make an adjustment, and I want to acknowledge that. But for most of us, and most of our priests of the archdiocese, we will not really notice much of a difference because we have been using this ritual that I’m holding here now for some 50 years, and it’s something that we’re quite familiar with and is common to us,” he said.

In the video filmed in front of the high altar at Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Comensoli said that Pope Francis wanted the current Roman Missal to be more “strongly emphasized, so that it might be an expression of the unity of the Church throughout the world.”

Pope Francis issued a motu proprio called Traditionis custodes (“Guardians of the tradition”) on July 16. The document made changes to his predecessor Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, which acknowledged the right of all priests to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962, which is in Latin.

Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal is referred to variously as the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Tridentine Mass, the Traditional Latin Mass, the usus antiquior, and the Vetus Ordo.

With Traditionis custodes, Pope Francis said that it is now each bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize the use of the extraordinary form of the Mass in his diocese.

Since the motu proprio’s promulgation, some bishops have said that priests may continue to offer the Traditional Latin Mass in their dioceses, while others have banned it.

In a July 21 letter to clergy, Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney granted permission “to those priests competent in offering Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal to continue to do so, either privately or in those places that already have an Extraordinary Form Mass on their schedule, subject to COVID-19 restrictions and until further instructions are forthcoming from me.”

Fisher also asked priests to “consider carefully and respectfully the reasoning and instructions of the Holy Father, to help in promoting unity and good order in the Church, to continue to foster a fruitful devotion to the Mass, and to give priority to serving the pastoral needs of God’s people.”

Traditional Latin Masses are currently offered in St Mary’s Cathedral and St. Michael’s parish in Sydney on Sundays, as well as at a personal parish administered by the priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter, according to the Catholic Weekly, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Sydney.

Archbishop Comensoli also issued a letter to clergy in Melbourne on July 17, saying that he needed time “to pray, study, and consult the new law of the Church.”

In the interim, the archbishop said that he was only granting the faculty to offer the Traditional Latin Mass without a congregation present.

“I draw your attention to the directive … that the celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Ritual is no longer permitted in parochial settings,” Comensoli said.

The archbishop also noted that these restrictions would not apply to the personal parish in Melbourne, St. John Henry Newman.

“I do not intend to rush to putting in place definitive directives,” Comensoli said.

“It is, for me, a time to examine my own conscience -- and I encourage you each to do the same -- in how I am celebrating the liturgy of the Church, and to more ardently conform myself to the worthy and dignified celebration of the Roman Rites,” he said.

“Let us use this moment to better exercise the ars celebrandi [the art of celebration] and renew our conformity to the third typical edition of the Missale Romanum [Roman Missal].”

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