Documents Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI, 7 July 2007
Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI
on the celebration of the Roman Rite according to the Missal of 1962
[Original : latin, unofficial Vatican Information Service translation]
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
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 their piety.
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 Church.
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:
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 rite.
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
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 statues.
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,
§ 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
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
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 Dei".
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
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
From Rome, at St. Peter's, 7 July 2007, third year of Our
Benedictus PP XVI
(1) General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 3rd ed., 2002, no.
(2) John Paul II, Apostolic Letter "Vicesimus quintus annus", 4
December 1988, 3: AAS 81 (1989), 899.
(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.
(5) Cf John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Motu proprio data
"Ecclesia Dei", 2 July 1988, 6: AAS 80 (1988), 1498.