Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, issued Motu Proprio on July 7, 2007, by Pope Benedict XVI
On Saturday 7 July 2007 Pope Benedict XVI issued an
Apostolic Letter on the celebration of the Roman Rite according to the
Missal of 1962. The following text is the unofficial Vatican Information
Service translation of the official Latin text.
Up to our own times, it has been the constant concern of supreme
pontiffs to ensure that the Church of Christ offers a worthy ritual to
the Divine Majesty, 'to the praise and glory of His name,' and 'to the
benefit of all His Holy Church.'
Since time immemorial it has been necessary - as it is also for the
future - to maintain the principle according to which 'each particular
Church must concur with the universal Church, not only as regards the
doctrine of the faith and the sacramental signs, but also as regards the
usages universally accepted by uninterrupted apostolic tradition, which
must be observed not only to avoid errors but also to transmit the
integrity of the faith, because the Church's law of prayer corresponds
to her law of faith.' (1)
Among the pontiffs who showed that requisite concern, particularly
outstanding is the name of St. Gregory the Great, who made every effort
to ensure that the new peoples of Europe received both the Catholic
faith and the treasures of worship and culture that had been accumulated
by the Romans in preceding centuries. He commanded that the form of the
sacred liturgy as celebrated in Rome (concerning both the Sacrifice of
Mass and the Divine Office) be conserved. He took great concern to
ensure the dissemination of monks and nuns who, following the Rule of
St. Benedict, together with the announcement of the Gospel illustrated
with their lives the wise provision of their Rule that 'nothing should
be placed before the work of God.' In this way the sacred liturgy,
celebrated according to the Roman use, enriched not only the faith and
piety but also the culture of many peoples. It is known, in fact, that
the Latin liturgy of the Church in its various forms, in each century of
the Christian era, has been a spur to the spiritual life of many saints,
has reinforced many peoples in the virtue of religion and fecundated
Many other Roman pontiffs, in the course of the centuries, showed
particular solicitude in ensuring that the sacred liturgy accomplished
this task more effectively. Outstanding among them is St. Pius V who,
sustained by great pastoral zeal and following the exhortations of the
Council of Trent, renewed the entire liturgy of the Church, oversaw the
publication of liturgical books amended and 'renewed in accordance with
the norms of the Fathers,' and provided them for the use of the Latin
One of the liturgical books of the Roman rite is the Roman Missal,
which developed in the city of Rome and, with the passing of the
centuries, little by little took forms very similar to that it has had
in recent times.
"It was towards this same goal that succeeding Roman Pontiffs
directed their energies during the subsequent centuries in order to
ensure that the rites and liturgical books were brought up to date and
when necessary clarified. From the beginning of this century they
undertook a more general reform.' (2) Thus
our predecessors Clement VIII, Urban VIII, St. Pius X
(3), Benedict XV, Pius XII and Blessed John
XXIII all played a part.
In more recent times, Vatican Council II expressed a desire that the
respectful reverence due to divine worship should be renewed and adapted
to the needs of our time. Moved by this desire our predecessor, the
Supreme Pontiff Paul VI, approved, in 1970, reformed and partly renewed
liturgical books for the Latin Church. These, translated into the
various languages of the world, were willingly accepted by bishops,
priests and faithful. John Paul II amended the third typical edition of
the Roman Missal. Thus Roman pontiffs have operated to ensure that 'this
kind of liturgical edifice ... should again appear resplendent for its
dignity and harmony.' (4)
But in some regions, no small numbers of faithful adhered and
continue to adhere with great love and affection to the earlier
liturgical forms. These had so deeply marked their culture and their
spirit that in 1984 the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, moved by a concern
for the pastoral care of these faithful, with the special indult 'Quattuor
abhinc anno," issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship, granted
permission to use the Roman Missal published by Blessed John XXIII in
the year 1962. Later, in the year 1988, John Paul II with the Apostolic
Letter given as Motu Proprio, 'Ecclesia Dei,' exhorted bishops to make
generous use of this power in favor of all the faithful who so desired.
Following the insistent prayers of these faithful, long deliberated
upon by our predecessor John Paul II, and after having listened to the
views of the Cardinal Fathers of the Consistory of 22 March 2006, having
reflected deeply upon all aspects of the question, invoked the Holy
Spirit and trusting in the help of God, with these Apostolic Letters we
establish the following:
Art 1. The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is the ordinary
expression of the 'Lex orandi' (Law of prayer) of the Catholic Church of
the Latin rite. Nonetheless, the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V
and reissued by Bl. John XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary
expression of that same 'Lex orandi,' and must be given due honour for
its venerable and ancient usage. These two expressions of the Church's
Lex orandi will in no any way lead to a division in the Church's 'Lex
credendi' (Law of belief). They are, in fact two usages of the one Roman
It is, therefore, permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass
following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Bl.
John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the
Liturgy of the Church. The conditions for the use of this Missal as laid
down by earlier documents 'Quattuor abhinc annis' and 'Ecclesia Dei,'
are substituted as follows:
Art. 2. In Masses celebrated without the people, each Catholic priest of
the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal
published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal
promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the
exception of the Easter Triduum. For such celebrations, with either one
Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the
Apostolic See or from his Ordinary.
Art. 3. Communities of Institutes of consecrated life and of Societies
of apostolic life, of either pontifical or diocesan right, wishing to
celebrate Mass in accordance with the edition of the Roman Missal
promulgated in 1962, for conventual or "community" celebration in their
oratories, may do so. If an individual community or an entire Institute
or Society wishes to undertake such celebrations often, habitually or
permanently, the decision must be taken by the Superiors Major, in
accordance with the law and following their own specific decrees and
Art. 4. Celebrations of Mass as mentioned above in art. 2 may -
observing all the norms of law - also be attended by faithful who, of
their own free will, ask to be admitted.
Art. 5. � 1 In parishes, where there
is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical
tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to
celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published
in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with
the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the
bishop in accordance with canon 392, avoiding discord and favouring the
unity of the whole Church.
� 2 Celebration in accordance
with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII may take place on working days; while
on Sundays and feast days one such celebration may also be held.
� 3 For faithful and priests who
request it, the pastor should also allow celebrations in this
extraordinary form for special circumstances such as marriages, funerals
or occasional celebrations, e.g. pilgrimages.
� 4 Priests who use the Missal of
Bl. John XXIII must be qualified to do so and not juridically impeded.
� 5 In churches that are not
parish or conventual churches, it is the duty of the Rector of the
church to grant the above permission.
Art. 6. In Masses celebrated in the presence of the people in accordance
with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII, the readings may be given in the
vernacular, using editions recognised by the Apostolic See.
Art. 7. If a group of lay faithful, as mentioned in art. 5 � 1, has not
obtained satisfaction to their requests from the pastor, they should
inform the diocesan bishop. The bishop is strongly requested to satisfy
their wishes. If he cannot arrange for such celebration to take place,
the matter should be referred to the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia
Art. 8. A bishop who, desirous of satisfying such requests, but who for
various reasons is unable to do so, may refer the problem to the
Commission "Ecclesia Dei" to obtain counsel and assistance.
Art. 9. � 1 The pastor, having
attentively examined all aspects, may also grant permission to use the
earlier ritual for the administration of the Sacraments of Baptism,
Marriage, Penance, and the Anointing of the Sick, if the good of souls
would seem to require it.
� 2 Ordinaries are given the
right to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation using the earlier Roman
Pontifical, if the good of souls would seem to require it.
� 3 Clerics ordained "in sacris
constitutis" may use the Roman Breviary promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in
Art. 10. The ordinary of a particular place, if he feels it appropriate,
may erect a personal parish in accordance with can. 518 for celebrations
following the ancient form of the Roman rite, or appoint a chaplain,
while observing all the norms of law.
Art. 11. The Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei", erected by John Paul
II in 1988 (5), continues to exercise its
function. Said Commission will have the form, duties and norms that the
Roman Pontiff wishes to assign it.
Art. 12. This Commission, apart from the powers it enjoys, will exercise
the authority of the Holy See, supervising the observance and
application of these dispositions.
We order that everything We have established with these Apostolic
Letters issued as Motu Proprio be considered as "established and
decreed", and to be observed from 14 September of this year, Feast of
the Exaltation of the Cross, whatever there may be to the contrary.
From Rome, at St. Peter's, 7 July 2007, third year of Our Pontificate.
Pope Benedict XVI
(1) General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 3rd ed.,
2002, no. 397. [return to text]
(2) John Paul II, Apostolic Letter "Vicesimus quintus
annus," 4 December 1988, 3: AAS 81 (1989), 899. [return
(3) Ibid. [return to text]
(4) St. Pius X, Apostolic Letter Motu propio data, "Abhinc
duos annos," 23 October 1913: AAS 5 (1913), 449-450; cf John Paul II,
Apostolic Letter "Vicesimus quintus annus," no. 3: AAS 81 (1989), 899.
[return to text]
(5) Cf John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Motu proprio
data "Ecclesia Dei," 2 July 1988, 6: AAS 80 (1988), 1498.
[return to text]
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