Vatican restricts Latin Mass and private Masses at St Peter’s

As of Monday, private Masses and Masses said in Latin won’t be as freely available at St Peter’s Basilica as they have been.

The Vatican’s Secretariat of State – which deals with the general affairs of the church – has forbidden Masses to be said by a priest by himself at the basilica.

It also says the extraordinary form of Mass in the Latin rite can only be celebrated at one specific altar in the basilica’s crypt.

Venezuelan-born Archbishop Peña Parra, who heads the Secretariat, issued the new instructions.

The instruction strictly limiting the celebration Latin rite in the basilica makes it clear that its usage is not intended to be the norm.

The Lenten season “invites us to return to the Lord with all our heart by giving greater centrality to listening to the Word of God and to the Eucharistic celebration,” Parra’s instruction begins.

“In this sense, wishing to ensure that the holy Masses in the Basilica of St Peter’s are conducted in a climate of recollection and liturgical decorum, from now henceforth the following has been laid down.”

The instruction then makes five specific points.

None of them is explained, but their aim appears clear.

Overall, they seek to ensure: there is order in the celebration of the Mass in St Peter’s basilica and Masses are celebrated according to the norms and spirit of the Second Vatican Council’s liturgical renewal.

The instruction’s first point aims to end the practice of “lone” celebrations.

Apparently many priests, including those working at the curia, celebrate Mass at side altars of the basilica.

Often they celebrate Mass alone, frequently in the extraordinary (Latin) form.

The second point of the instruction concerns “the priests and the faithful who go daily to the basilica for holy Mass”.

It says they should have the possibility to participate in various celebrations, and goes on to timetable various Masses celebrated each day at St Peter’s, as well as making room for feast days and other special Masses.

The focus on larger, shared liturgies rather than many private Masses every day is in accord with the spirit of the liturgical renewal introduced by the Second Vatican Council.

This instruction aims to ensure the liturgy is celebrated according to the council’s liturgical reforms. “The celebrations … should be liturgically animated, with the assistance of lectors and cantors.”

The fourth point says “groups of pilgrims, accompanied by a bishop or priests (should) be assured of the possibility of celebrating holy Mass in the Vatican grottoes”; the chapels in the basilica’s crypt or around the tomb of St. Peter.

The instruction’s fifth and final point sets out the times and place the extraordinary form of the Latin rite of the Mass (essentially the pre-Vatican II Mass) can be celebrated,

The instructions will come into effect on Monday 22 March, 2021.


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