Priests pray during a solemn vespers and benediction service in the extraordinary form at the Church of the Holy Trinity of the Pilgrims in Rome in January 2010. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The “people of Summorum Pontificum”—that is, those who find the pre-conciliar liturgy, liberalized by Pope Benedict XVI with his 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, to be better suited to their spiritual needs—are fully mobilizing for a second pilgrimage to Rome, to take place October 24-27. The first pilgrimage was held last November, in commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the motu proprio and culminated in a pontifical high Mass in the extraordinary form celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica.
To learn a little more about this year’s event, I spoke with its coordinator and international spokesman, Guillaume Ferluc, a journalist for the well-known web portal Paix Liturgique. He also discussed at length the signs of hope he sees today in the worldwide community of traditional Catholics.
How are things unfolding in preparation for this second pilgrimage?
Guillaume Ferluc: We are proceeding according to schedule. Thursday, October 24, there will be the first Pontifical Vespers in the Church of Santissima TrinitÀ dei Pellegrini, while on Friday morning, October 25, there will be a recitation of the Rosary…[then] we will all rally under the Arch of Titus for the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) on the Palatine. [Later] there will be a Pontifical Mass in the Church of Pellegrini, celebrated by Msgr. Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana in Kazakhstan, with the choir of St. Cecilia from Paris.
Saturday 26 there will be a Pontifical Mass in St. Peter’s celebrated by Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, preceded by Eucharistic adoration at the Chiesa Nuova (Santa Maria in Vallicella) and a procession through the streets of Rome. The presence of Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos on the anniversary of his priestly ordination is a great joy and an honor for all the people of Summorum Pontificum. As president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, the cardinal did not spare efforts for the rights of both the faithful and the priests tied to the traditional liturgy to be upheld and respected, by supporting with great enthusiasm and loyalty the promulgation of the motu proprio by Pope Benedict XVI. We will have a great opportunity to thank him for this.
The pilgrimage will wind up Sunday, October 27, with the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King by Msgr. Rifan, bishop of the apostolic administration of St. John Mary Vianney in Campos, Brazil, in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. The pilgrimage will come to an end in tune with the official closing of the Year of Faith, which will take place in late November, on the same Solemnity of Christ the King but according to the reformed calendar. In addition, on Friday morning, October 25, there will be another important event, reserved only for the priests taking part in the pilgrimage, who will be briefed by Msgr. Fisichella, in his capacity as head of the new evangelization.
Are you noticing major differences between the organization of the pilgrimage last year and this year?
Ferluc: We have to acknowledge that at this stage all—pilgrims, religious, and individual institutes—appear to be quite at ease with the Coetus Internationalis Pro Summorum Pontificum [an organization of traditionalist groups from all over the world, and the primary sponser of the pilgrimages]. Last year it seemed that we, as a new reality, were in a way coming out of the blue, so there were people, even those who belonged to the traditional family, [who were] caught by surprise, perhaps because we had not been able to communicate effectively. Moreover, there was not much time to best prepare for the pilgrimage. This year there is a greater openness on the part of all… Of course there is still also some resistance, especially from those clergy who would like to take advantage of Benedict’s abdication to sink again the Mass of Saint Pius V—which was never repealed!—into oblivion.
I have heard that the inclusion of Msgr. Rifan might have raised eyebrows in some circles. What can you say about it?
Ferluc: Msgr. Rifan is criticized by some because, as member of the Brazilian Episcopal Conference, he happens to participate in ceremonies led by other bishops and therefore is involved in non-traditional liturgies. As apostolic Roman Catholics we must realize and accept that our catechetical and liturgical [practices] unfortunately are [in the minority] in the Church. We should not be surprised, therefore, that we have to deal also with those who ordinarily live the liturgy and faith in another way. After all, many of us who have embraced the traditional liturgy after the motu proprio in 2007 are used or have been used to the ordinary form of the liturgy.
I also think that some of these criticisms are also depending on the fact that Brazil is far away and that people therefore are not fully aware of his work as a traditional bishop. I can say that we have received excellent testimonies from the recent World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, where Msgr. Rifan was in charge of catechesis for the Juventutem young people, a group whose apostolate is based on the traditional liturgy. The church was overcrowded, the Pontifical Mass very worthy, and sermons much appreciated.
In short, in order to foster our religious practice and attend the traditional rite of the Mass in our parishes, we need priests, and therefore seminaries that will form them and bishops who may ordain them: Msgr. Rifan is so far the only bishop whose pastoral mandate is just that. It would seem strange if someone should not like him to be with us! The truth is that we would need more Msgr. Rifans!
Save for specialized sites, the mainstream media has not reported anything about these traditional ceremonies during World Youth Day. Can you tell us something more?
Ferluc: Out of 300 bishops to whom the catechesis was entrusted by the Pontifical Council for the Laity (the Vatican department that manages World Youth Day), the catechesis for the Juventutem group was given into the hands of just one confrere of theirs, Msgr. Rifan. It may seem little—one out of 300—as the about 1,200 young traditional faithful may also seem few. But nevertheless it is significant that they were fully and officially included in a Church event of this magnitude, especially when one considers the many years of real marginalization that the traditional faithful had to endure.
Until only a short time ago, who could ever have thought that in Brazil hundreds of young people would avail themselves of three days of sermons, Masses, and confession with priests attached to the tradition of the Church? And all this with the official imprimatur of the Roman Catholic Church? …
In my opinion, those who would like our movement to disappear mistakenly assume that Pope Benedict has revived something from the dead. But Pope Benedict, with his vast experience at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and profound knowledge of the situation on the ground, especially in Germany, had perfectly realized that in parishes and churches there was no small part of the faithful who, even if they had followed with conviction the new course of the Church in the post-conciliar decades, nonetheless were yearning for something different. …
And most of all, as evidenced by World Youth Day and the majority of new Summorum Pontificum faithful, the traditional liturgy attracts young people. For this reason, far from remaining in our fort, we ought to reach out to all those who are seeking a greater solemnity and a more profound sacredness in their lives as faithful.
… Another [piece of] evidence testifying to the growth of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite is that from year to year an increasing number of new priests are choosing to celebrate their first Masses in the extraordinary form—not only those belonging to the traditional Ecclesia Dei-related institutions, but also those formed in the diocesan seminaries. … It is a way for many priests to affirm their membership in what we might call the “Benedict XVI generation,” in the wake of what had already been termed the “John Paul II generation.” This generation of Pope Benedict could also be described as the “Summorum Pontificum generation.”
Starting next year the vast majority of seminarians to be ordained will be men who entered seminaries after the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum. And here too, I am convinced that we will see further growth of the traditional liturgy. Of course, we hope that these priests will be able to exercise their right to celebrate in their parishes the Mass according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII.
What new challenges for the traditional world, in your opinion, can we expect with the new pontificate?
Ferluc: We are convinced that the history of the Church did not end either in 1962 or with the pontificate of Pope Benedict. The new pontificate of Pope Francis is, perhaps, urging us to reflect on how the liturgy and tradition of the Church are not only for a small group, an elite, as is misunderstood by many.
One could also argue, following the call of Pope Francis, that the traditional liturgy of the Church—with all its splendor which reveals to us the presence of God—is actually a liturgy that leads us to be humble. In the traditional liturgy, the actuosa participatio—active participation of the faithful—is a humble participation, made of silence, adoration, kneeling, supplication, thanks: many attitudes that are not so different from those of the man in trouble asking for help, of the person who is suffering.
And let us not forget that among the great, holy priests were many simple parish priests, serving in the countryside and rural areas, in close contact with the lowest and most humble classes of the nation, [such as] St. John Vianney, Don Orione, or Padre Pio. Even if these holy priests celebrated liturgy with the greatest solemnity, it was always a liturgy involving everyone from the farmer to the housewife, people who had certainly not studied Latin at the Sorbonne or in whatever other schools of great repute, but who felt they were an integral part of this liturgy and this worship rendered to God.
What is your final message about the upcoming pilgrimage?
Ferluc: I just want [readers] to remember that a pilgrimage can be seen from various angles. First, it is an opportunity of repentance, in the sense that somehow involves one’s effort and sacrifice. Certainly it is not Compostela, and therefore one does not have to walk so much, but still the hardships and fatigues of the pilgrimage may well be seen as a kind of penance or small sacrifice to offer the Lord. In fact, what has led us to repeat the pilgrimage this year is the much-hoped-for but unexpected success of last year’s pilgrimage. All the participants went back home happy with an experience that had proven spiritually fruitful for them: they returned home bringing with them a small spiritual treasure, which obviously turned out to be the most important fruit of the pilgrimage.
And we would like this year to have the same thing occur. We too are called to give our contribution to the new evangelization—with the ever-young liturgical tradition that some people, however, deem old, ancient, if not dead. I think that for some it might just be an opportunity to discover what this traditional reality actually is: and I am speaking not only of the liturgy, but also of the faithful who are associated with it, because often the criticisms of the traditional world are criticisms of its very faithful, who are portrayed as people more active in politics than in praying, and if they actually pray, they do so for all sorts of different purposes rather than for their own sanctification…. For many years it was thought that the only traditionalists were French, then only European, and now it turns out, thanks to the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, that from the Philippines to South America, from Australia to Finland to Newfoundland, it is a universal reality. …
So, coming to Rome for this pilgrimage is an opportunity to discover the traditional liturgy for those who do not know it, but perhaps also an opportunity to meet their brothers in Christ…. We must say that we are suffering a lot from this idea of being marginalized. Recently Francis Pope called on all Catholics to examine themselves and see whether they are narrow-minded and sad, an attitude so little Christian. Maybe sometimes it can also happen to us traditional faithful to be thus in our daily lives, to have an attitude a bit cold and reserved—but we were also often driven to be so, because when we knock at a door, most of the time it has been slammed in our faces.Therefore, we would also like to make ourselves known better, because the reality of theSummorum Pontificum family is a reality that is slowly evolving, and is, on average, quite young: the overwhelming majority of people were born and raised in their religious faith and practice after the Council, and thus often without knowing the traditional liturgy until 2007. … But I also hope it is an opportunity for us to bring in more people, including many that for the first time will be reciting their prayers in Latin.