Unity and Concord in the Use of the Roman Missal: An analysis of ‘Traditionis Custodes’

Cesare Giraudo, SJ

 Cesare Giraudo, SJ / Church Thought / 1 December 2021

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The liturgy continues to arouse lively interest in the Catholic Church. It has been discussed for decades with regard to the interpretation and translation of texts, and became a focus of attention with the publication of the third edition of the Roman Missal in the vernacular. Now Pope Francis, with the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes (“Guardians of Tradition”),[1] has addressed it again   in a very sensitive area.

To understand the new measure, one needs to take a look at the recent history of the Roman Missal with regard to pontifical concessions now revoked. Francis himself is our guide. He has explained in a letter the reasons that led him to pronounce on the use of a liturgical book that for more than thirty years has been in search of peace – in Latin one might say “quærens pacem” – a peace based on unity and intra-ecclesial harmony. In the letter, Francis draws inspiration from his predecessor, who had also accompanied the legislation at the time with a similar letter, and addresses all the bishops “with trust and parrhesia.”[2]

The accompanying letter to the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes

In this long and articulate letter Pope Francis takes as a starting point the situation he intends to remedy: the faculty, granted by indult of the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1984[3] and confirmed by John Paul II in 1988,[4] to be able to celebrate Mass in accordance with the latest Tridentine edition of the Roman Missal, published in 1962.[5] This concession, reserved for groups of the faithful who would have to request it, was motivated by the desire to overcome the Lefebvrian schism. This is where the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of July 7, 2007,[6] with which Benedict XVI intended to regulate the practice of those who saw in that Missal a form particularly suited to encourage an encounter with the mystery, comes in. Now, to understand the motu proprio of Francis, it is necessary to reread the twelve articles of the motu proprio of Benedict XVI, which we will briefly review.  

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