Pope Francis chastised Catholics who “use” the liturgy to defend “ideologies that divide the Church,” while receiving professors and students at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute on May 7, 2022. Without mentioning his controversial motu proprio Traditionis custodes, limiting the use of the Tridentine Mass, the Pope did not mince his words with regard to movements “that deny the Second Vatican Council.”
From the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, the Bishop of Rome expressed his hopes that liturgical life would lead “to greater ecclesial unity, not to division.” Improvising widely during his speech, he said liturgical division has “the smell of the devil.”
“One cannot worship God and at the same time make the liturgy a battleground for questions that are not essential, or rather, outdated questions,” the head of the Catholic Church warned. In front of the liturgists who were celebrating the 60th anniversary of the foundation of their institute, the Argentine pontiff targeted the “closed mentalities” that “seek to go backwards a bit” questioning “the Council, the authority of the bishops… to preserve the tradition.”
These people “use liturgical models to defend their point of view,” the Pope lamented, pointing also to “the liturgical formalism” of these movements. Formalism reduces the celebration to “a recitation, something without life, without joy,” he stressed, recalling that the liturgy was not “a job” nor “a matter of rite” but “the mystery of Christ.”
“Every reform creates resistance”
“It is true that every reform creates resistance,” the pontiff said, listing the opposition to the aggiornamento of recent decades: “I remember, I was young, when Pius XII initiated the first liturgical reform: the right to drink water before communion, fasting for an hour … ‘But this goes against the sacredness of the Eucharist!'”
The Pope continued to share comments he remembered once hearing, saying, “Then, the Mass of the evening before: ‘But how is it possible, Mass is in the morning!'”
Pope Francis did not specifically name his motu proprio Traditionis custodes of July 2021. But the confirmation of his position on the pre-conciliar rite comes as last Wednesday, May 4, mothers of priests from the Roman Way association brought him more than 2,000 letters from Catholics asking for him to lift restrictions on the Tridentine liturgy.
On February 11, however, the pontiff signed a decree exempting priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) from the provisions of the motu proprio. This dispensation may also be extended to other traditionalist institutes in union with Rome.