A Reading of Pope John Paul II’s New Encyclical Letter,

Ecclesia de Eucharistia, on the Holy Eucharist




This Encyclical Letter is interesting, even very interesting.  It may even be a historical act.  It goes, if it is not too presumptuous from me to say so, in the right direction.  And so does go in the right direction the celebration -- and its announcement urbi et orbi -- of Saint Pius V’s mass, at Saint Mary’s Basilica, by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, on this May 24th, in a Roman basilica and on a papal altar. And in the right direction equally goes the last document of the Congregation of the clergy about the priest and the parish, which was signed by this cardinal and published on the 4th of August 2002.


Would there not be today a desire for restoration within the Holy Church? We believe so.


This Encyclical Letter is right, even though we may regret certain points, such as a conspicuous difference of tone and style which impinges on the unity of the text.


Yet, let us leave criticism aside, which is always possible on a text, and focus on the essential part of the document.




A Doctrinal Reminder



The Encyclical Letter is a doctrinal reminder on the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.

Yet there is nothing so extraordinary in this!

Indeed! But it strikes me that this document seems to be a doctrinal reminder aimed at correcting the notorious insufficiencies of the liturgical reform issued from Council Vatican II, and at rectifying the ambiguities of the text “Institutio Generalis” published by the Commission “Missale Romanum” signed by Pope Paul VI on April 3th 1969.


These ambiguities boils down to the number of three, which are parallel to the three truths of the Catholic doctrine on the holy Eucharist:


1) A sacrifice

2) A victim (the real presence)

3) A priest






A) The sacrifice



The liturgical reform -- I include under this term both the doctrinal text “Institutio Generalis” which governed this reform and the so-called rite of the new “Ordo Missae” -- does not express in a clear way the sacrificial mystery of the Holy Eucharist. In fact, it does not even refer once to the propitiatory character of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Yet we know that the Eucharist is a “veritable and authentic” sacrifice and not only a “food” (cf. Can. I of the 22nd session of the Council of Trent).


We equally know that the Eucharistic sacrifice, namely the mass, neither simply consists of a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving nor a simple commemoration of the sacrifice accomplished on the cross, but rather of a true “propitiatory” sacrifice (cf. Can 3 of the 22nd session of the Council of Trent).





B) The real presence



The liturgical reform neither expresses in a satisfactory fashion the doctrine of the “real and substantial” presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

The substantial presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist is in fact assimilated --  in the “Institutio Generalis” -- to the presence of Our Lord in the Holy Scripture. This implies that the spiritual presence of Our Lord in the Holy Scripture is qualitatively homogeneous to His presence in the Holy Eucharist. This is a grave Protestant error.

We know as well that the term “transubstantiation” appears nowhere in “Instititio Generalis.” This is altogether reprehensible for this word is the only one that can correctly express the Catholic doctrine of the substantial conversion from bread into the Christ’s Body and from wine into his Blood (cf. Chapter IV of the 13th session of the Council of Trent).

From there, it is impossible not to notice the abolition or the alteration of actions through which our faith in the real presence spontaneously expresses itself.

The new “Ordo Missae” removes genuflection, the purification of the priest’s fingers, the gilding of the sacred vases, thanksgiving on one’s knees which is replaced by the grotesque thanks from both the priest and the seated faithful as the normal outcome of standing communion. Would all this not provoke an implicit repudiation of the dogma of the real presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist?


This is what the pope realizes, and this is what he wants to correct.


C) The ministerial priesthood



Finally, the liturgical reform does not express clearly the role of the priest at the altar.

It simply regards him as an assembly president acting on behalf of the faithful and no longer specifically on behalf of Our Lord Jesus Christ -- in persona Christi.


It is the definition of famous article 7. It follows that “the Eucharistic prayer” -- that is the canon of the mass -- is defined by the “Instutio Generalis” document as a “presidential prayer.” But this is wrong (n10 n12). At the altar as on the cross, it is the same sacrifice, it is the same victim, Our Lord, and it is the same priest, always Our lord and his ministers who offer it -- representing “the great priest” and only acting on his behalf -- in persona Christi.

We may not harbour any doubt on this point.







The pope now perceives some “shadows” -- that is his term -- regarding the Holy Eucharist as conceived by the “post-conciliar liturgical reform” (n10).


Granted, this reform brought about “some benefits,” among which he sees “a more conscious, more active, and more fruitful participation of the faithful in the holy Sacrifice of the Altar.” But it caused desolation as well. Moreover, what platitude, what boredom! In fact, the present liturgy is so empty that it is emptying churches. The pope, besides, admits  it: “Unfortunately, he says, alongside these lights, there are also shadows” (n10). And he goes on to list them in paragraph 10. They precisely correspond to those we find in “Institutio Generalis” and to those I just mentioned.

Moreover, we must point out that when the pope quotes those errors, he draws his references exclusively from Paul VI’s Roman missal and his “Institutio Generalis.” In other words, those two documents are both the very documents he criticizes and those he uses to found and expound his criticism (n11-14-17-18-28). This is very clever and maybe very Roman.

The authority, anyhow, cannot reverse his judgment. It is still too early.






The pope indeed notices that the sacrificial meaning of the Eucharist has been forgotten, which transforms the Eucharist into a simple friendly meeting.


“Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, the Eucharistic mystery is lived as though it did not go beyond the sense and meaning of a fraternal banquet” (n10).


The pope wishes to correct that, and expressly says it:


“It is my hope that the present Encyclical Letter will effectively help to banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice, so that the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery.” (n10)


This very first “cloud” will be corrected in a fine chapter, namely chapter 1, which radiates throughout the whole letter.


Here, the pope reminds us with force of the sacrificial character of the Eucharist. This can even be found in the first lines of the chapter.

“The Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed” (1 Cor 11:23) instituted the Eucharist Sacrifice of his body and his blood. [...] It is not only a reminder but the sacramental re-presentation” (n11).

It is clear that this text is a reply to those who mean to view the Eucharist as a simple commemoration, as opposed to a sacramental actualization of the redeeming mystery of the Cross.

“It is the sacrifice of the Cross perpetuated down the ages” in such a way that “the sacrifice of Christ and the Eucharistic sacrifice are the same and unique sacrifice [...] The same one which makes the sacrifice of the supper present” (n11), yet without adding to it nor multiplying it.

The sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic mystery cannot therefore be understood as something which exists by itself independently from the Cross or as only an indirect reference to the “sacrifice of the Calvary” (n12).

From there, “by virtue of its close relationship to the sacrifice of Golgotha, the Eucharist is a sacrifice in the strict sense.”


The propitiatory sacrifice is also affirmed,  although one could have been more precise.

For instance, the pope reminds us that, through the gift of the Eucharist, it is “the work of salvation” that lives on (11). A little further, the pope refers again to Christ’s “the work of redemption” which is carried out through the Eucharist (11n).


The pope speaks of the Eucharist as “a mystery of mercy” offered “for the salvation of all.” He also speaks of the Eucharist as “a redeeming sacrifice”: “The Church constantly draws her life from the redeeming sacrifice” (n12). He speaks also of the reconciliation realized by the Christ’s sacrifice: “The Eucharist thus applies to men and women today the reconciliation won once for all by Christ for mankind in every age” (n12). Through his blood, he ratified a “new and eternal alliance” realizing a “work of sanctification,” the gift of a new and immortal life (n12).


Number 14 of this document will perhaps be the subject of some criticism from those of our priests who wrote the book presented to the Holy Father and Cardinal Ratzinger, The Liturgical Reform in Question.


“Christ’s Passover includes not only his passion and death, but also his resurrection. This is recalled by the assembly’s acclamation following the consecration: ‘We proclaim your resurrection.’ The Eucharistic Sacrifice makes present not only the mystery of the Saviour’s passion and death, but also the mystery of the resurrection which crowned his sacrifice” (n14).


This amounts to saying that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is “the memorial of the passion and of the resurrection of the Lord,” which is not accurate. The mass formally refers to the only sacrifice which is in itself redeeming, while resurrection is only its fruit.


Whatever this criticism, and even though it would have been very desirable that the expiatory character of the Sacrifice of the Cross be further clarified through a precise allusion to the original sin for which Our Lord came to suffer, in our place, the Father’s justice and who was the only one capable of fulfilling this reparation since he was both God and man, the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist is undeniably recalled. It is moreover recalled not only in this chapter but throughout the Letter.


The reader may indeed notice that the phrase “Eucharistic Sacrifice” is pervading. It would even be interesting to count how many times it is used. This insistence is very significant, in fact as significant as the insistence on the notion of banquet was in “Institutio Generalis.”

In that text on the institution, the words “meal,” “Lord’s supper,” “banquet” and “Lord’s table” constantly appear. The authors of the new “Ordo Missae”  manifestly put a great emphasis on the Last Supper and on its memory, as opposed to the unbloody renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross (Brief Critical Examination).


This is manifestly what the pope wants to rectify. This does not mean that the Eucharist is not food, but rather, as the pope points out in number 16, that the Eucharist is a real banquet in which Christ offers himself as food -- yet however true the aspect of banquet is, it must be subordinated to that of sacrifice.


This is what the authors of the “Brief Critical Examination” underlined at the time:

“Christ instituted the sacrament during the Last Supper and then became a victim so that we could unite with his state of victim; that is why this immolation precedes manducation and fully encompasses the redeeming meaning that stems from bloody Sacrifice.”





The pope takes also notice that we have forgotten today “the irreplaceable role of the ministerial priesthood ‘acting’ in persona Christi to realize the Holy Eucharist, the Eucharistic Sacrifice.”

“The necessity of the ministerial priesthood, grounded in apostolic succession, is at times obscured” (n10).

The pope wants to rectify this error. It is the subject of Chapter III whose title is precisely “The Apostolicity of the Eucharist and of the Church.”

He reminds us that the Church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” And so is the Eucharist. It is on the apostolicity that the pope wishes to draw the reader’s attention.


The Eucharist is apostolic in that it was imparted, from the start, to the apostles (n27), that it is celebrated in accordance with the apostles’ faith (n27), and that, in order to be, it still depends on the sacrament of Holy Orders, and as the Church, on the apostles and their priestly successors.


Once this foundation laid, the pope distinguishes very well the ministerial priesthood from the “royal” priesthood of the faithful. He constantly dwells on this difference.

These following quotations will suffice to prove it.

“The faithful join in the offering of the Eucharist by virtue of their royal priesthood. Yet it is the ordained priest who, acting in the person of Christ, brings about the Eucharistic Sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people” (n28).

It is the priest alone who utters the Eucharistic prayer while the people joins with him in faith and in silence.

This point of doctrine, as the pope remarks, is already well established in pontifical teaching and he quotes it in a footnote (#59). Pope Pius XII asserts it in his Encyclical Letter Mediator Dei, as well as Pius X in his Letter Haerent Animo (4 August 1908), and Pius XI in his Letter Ad Catholici Sacerdotii (20 December 1935).


He personally insists upon it:

“As I have pointed out in other occasions, the phrase in persona Christi means more than offering ‘in the name of’ or ‘in the place of’ Christ. In persona means in specific sacramental identification with the eternal High Priest who is the author and principal subject of the sacrifice of his, a sacrifice in which, in truth, nobody can take his place” (n29). And the pope concludes solemnly: “The ministry of priests who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders, in the economy of salvation chosen by Christ, makes clear that the Eucharist which they celebrate is a gift which radically transcends the power of the assembly and is in any event essential for validly linking the Eucharist consecration to the sacrifice of the Cross and to the Last Supper” (n29).

As though this was not sufficient, the pope adds: “The assembly gathered together for the celebration of the Eucharist, if it is to be a truly Eucharistic assembly, absolutely requires the presence of an ordained priest as its president [the term of president should be dispensed with]. On the other hand, the community is by itself incapable of providing an ordained minister.

This minister is a gift which the assembly receives through episcopal succession going back to the Apostles. It is the bishop who, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, makes a new presbyter by conferring upon him the power to consecrate the Eucharist. Consequently, the Eucharistic mystery cannot be celebrated in any community except by an ordained priest, as the Forth Lateran Council expressly taught” (n29).


And what does this Holy Council say?


“Nobody can carry out the sacrament of the Eucharist apart from the priest who is ordained in the rules according to the power of the Church’s keys which Our Lord himself granted to the apostles and their successors” (F C n31).


Under this light, the articles 10 and 12 of the “Institutio Generalis” certainly need to be modified. We can no longer say that the Eucharistic payer -- the canon -- is a “presidential prayer.” The best would be to suppress or forget them and to modify the rite in that place... while recalling for instance that the words of Consecration are to be uttered in “a low voice” as the Council of Trent required in its canon 9 of the 22nd session.





Finally, the pope remarks that we have forgotten today the sacramental aspect of the Eucharist: “The sacramental nature of the Eucharist is reduced to its mere effectiveness as a form of proclamation” (n10).


The pope’s doctrinal reminder on this point is the subject of many chapters of the Encyclical Letter: the chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.




Chapter 1



We have here a fine reminder of the Eucharistic dogma -- starting from n15.

“The sacramental re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice, crowned by the resurrection, in the Mass involves a most special presence which (to which “Institutio generalis” refers) is called real not as a way of excluding all other types of presence as if they were not real, but because it is a presence in the fullest sense: a substantial presence whereby Christ, the God-Man, is wholly and entirely present” (n15).


This is indeed a return to the Catholic doctrine. This is so true that the pope quotes some decisions of the Council of Trent on the matter. He does this, moreover, not only in footnotes, but also in the text as though to destroy definitively the error: “And so the still-valid doctrine of the Council of Trent is once again proposed,” to which he quotes an extract of chapter 4 of session XI.


“Through the consecration of the bread and of the wine, the transformation of the substance of all the bread into Christ’s Body, and the transformation of the substance of all the wine into Christ’s Blood takes place. The Catholic Church has precisely and rightly called this transformation transubstantiation.”




This is clear!

The correction is done.

Justice is accomplished. Truth triumphs.

And that is the essential thing. We are willing to forget all the suffering, sanctions and rejection undergone.

Truth is the only thing we aspire to.

Here she is proclaimed with force.

That is sufficient.




Chapter 2



We also have here a fine reminder of the Catholic doctrine on “the worship of the Eucharist outside the Mass.” Article 25 is indeed reminiscent of chapter 5 of the 13th session of the Council of Trent on the worship due to the Holy Eucharist: “The worship of the Eucharist is of inestimable value for the life of the Church” (n25).




Chapter 4



Entitled “The Eucharist and Ecclesial Communion,” this chapter reminds us that the Holy Eucharist, whose reception supposed faith and the state of grace, must be celebrated in communion with the Supreme Pontiff -- hence the necessity to cite his name in the canon of the mass -- with the bishop -- same obligation -- and the faithful. Once the idea is expressed, the pope “castigate” some ecumenical practices.


The fifth chapter



Entitled “The Dignity of the Eucharistic Celebration,” this chapter allows the Holy Father to recall the dignity of the Eucharistic celebration. Because of the real presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, the priest and the faithful must show respect, adoration, “simplicity” and “gravity.”

Very finely, the pope draws inspiration from the Bethany scene when Mary Magdala anoints Our Lord’s feet with a “high-priced” perfume.

He write: “Like the woman who anointed Jesus in Bethany, the Church has feared no ‘extravagance,’ devoting the best of her resources to expressing her wonder and adoration before the unsurpassable gift of the Eucharist” (n48).


Further on, the pope rejects the over-familiar way in which we often treat the Eucharist on pretext that it is also a banquet. He calls to mind Saint Paul’s severe remarks to the Corinthians.

“Though the idea of a “banquet” naturally suggests familiarity, the Church has never yielded to the temptation to trivialize this ‘intimacy’ with her Spouse by forgetting that he is also her Lord and that the “banquet” always remains a sacrificial banquet marked by the blood shed on Golgotha. [...] O sacrum convivium, in quo Christus sumitur!” (n48).


From there stems the necessary expressions of inward and outward forms of worship “meant to evoke and emphasize the grandeur of the event being celebrated” (n49).


Form there also stems a particular form of regulating the Eucharistic liturgy “with due respect for the various legitimacy constituted ecclesial traditions” (n49).


Be careful! As we will see later on, this sentence is significant.


Hence the rich artistic and esthetic heritage we enjoy as much in the East as in the West, as this fine text on sacred art points out:

“Sacred art must be outstanding for its ability to express adequately the mystery grasped in the fullness of the Church’s faith and in accordance with the pastoral guidelines appropriately laid down by competent Authority. This holds true both for the figurative arts and for sacred music” (n50).









The pope himself speaks of the abuses of the liturgical reform.


 Let me quote him: “It must be lamented that, especially in the years following the post-conciliar liturgical reform, as a result of a misguided sense of creativity and adaptation [these are not the only reasons, as the abuses can be understood through the liturgical reform itself, which is itself an abuse] there have been a number of abuses which have been a source of suffering for many.” ...Thank you Holy Father!


“A certain reaction against ‘formalism’ has led some […] to consider the ‘forms’ chosen by the Church’s great liturgical tradition and her Magisterium as non-binding and to introduce unauthorized innovations which are often completely inappropriate” (n52).



It is said, and it is from the pope’s pen.

It had to be said.


The pope concludes : “I consider it my duty, therefore to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity” (n52), that is those which correspond to the great liturgical tradition of the Church from the above-quoted paragraph. 

May we at last remember, says the pope, that “liturgy is never anyone’s private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated” (n52).  The pope also asserts that “priest who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church” (n52). 





A new text is announced…



Further on, the pope announces the coming of a new text which will pertain to the respect owed to liturgical norms : “Precisely to bring out more clearly this deeper meaning of liturgical norms, I have asked the competent offices of the Roman Curia to prepare a more specific document, including prescriptions of juridical nature, on this very important subject.” And the pope goes on :  “No one is permitted to undervalue the mystery entrusted to our hands : it is too great for anyone to feel free to treat it lightly and with disregard for its sacredness and its universality” (n52).




First conclusion


After going through this Encyclical Letter, we see that the pope firmly denounces the abuses, the omissions, and the “shadows” which touch on the holy mystery of the Eucharist and that he examines them very critically.


These are the very faults which, right from the beginning of the liturgical reform, a certain “chosen group of theologians, liturgists and soul ministers” (Cardinal Ottaviani’s letter to Paul VI) respectfully presented to Paul VI in a little work known as the Brief Critical Examination .


Go through it.  Go through Father Calmel’s article in Itinéraires, as well as those of Father Dulac in the first issues of Si Si No No (Courrier de Rome).


Go also through Archbishop Lefebvre’s lectures and sermons, Bishop Castro Mayer’s letter to Pope Paul VI, Dom Guillou’s articles in Nouvelles de Chrétienté, Jean Madiran’s, des Charlier’s, and Miss Quenette’s articles in Itinéraires, and you will find the same criticism, that is the one that the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II presents in his Encyclical Letter.


They have all found at last “a (favorable) echo in the Supreme Pontiff’s fatherly heart”.



Second conclusion


But that is not all, and the following point shows a very interesting aspect of the Encyclical Letter.  Not only does the pope want to encourage a true return to the Eucharistic worship in the Church, but he especially wants to proceed to a correction of the new “Ordo Missae” which has provoked – among other causes – the present errors and “shadows”.  He wants to rectify in order to rebuild, in order to re-edify the dying Eucharistic worship in the world, and rebuild it on the three truths recalled in the Encyclical Letter :


-         The Eucharist is a sacrifice, that is Christ’s sacrifice characterized by its noble latreutic, eucharistic, satisfactory and impetratory finalities.


-         This sacrifice demands a victim, namely Our Lord who is substantially present under the transubstantiated species.


-         The sacramental sacrifice, realized by the double consecration of the bread and the wine, is an act which requires the ministerial priesthood.



This text by the pope is finally a text which prepares “the reform of the liturgical reform.”  It reminds us of the great truth which will be the foundation, the principle and the light of the forthcoming announced text.


He will recall the liturgical rites which will be this time in true osmosis with Catholic truth, as Lex Orandi should express Lex Credendi.


Here is the precise task which the following prefects will undertake, namely Cardinal Ratzinger from the Congregation of the Faith, Cardinal Arinze from Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos from the Congregation of the Clergy, and Bishop Herranz of the Pontifical Council of the interpretation of legal texts.


Consequently, we may reasonably believe that the time of the end of the liturgical abuses is at hand, and that now is the time of the return to liturgical order and finally to a totally Catholic liturgy.


How can we believe that it may exist a dichotomy between the Encyclical Letter and the announced text.  Yet we must expect the devil to break loose…  If this new text really restores the Catholic liturgy, the devil will lose its “major asset”.


Let’s hope that the cardinals will have the courage to recall – for instance as Bishop Gamber insistently asked in his liturgical studies – that the Eucharistic sacrifice is to be celebrated facing the East.  Didn’t Cardinal Ratzinger write the preface to his books?


Let’s hope that the cardinals will have the courage to recall – as the pope does here – the acts of worship that are required to adequately honor the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 


Let’s hope that they will suppress this communion in the hand, and that they will make the distribution of communion the proper act of Priesthood… 


Let’s hope that they will free us from this “scandalous offertory imposed by Bishop Bunigni – famous freemason – and that a clearly sacrificial offertory will be take its place…  And why not return to the fine prayers of the Roman offertory?” (Item 9).

Let’s hope that the cardinals will allow us to come back to the worshiping silence of the celebrations, as Cardinal Ratzinger suggested it in his last work.


YES, it is the time of restoration.

We must pray!



Third conclusion


If such a thing occurs, it will really be a great achievement.  Let me explain myself.


Mr. Jean Madiran, in his interview with Father Tanouarn in his last Certitude maintains : “I believe that Vatican II is susceptible of a Pia Intrepretatio (as St. Thomas did with some Fathers).  I am not against the idea that the pope could, through some documents, rectify the ambiguities of the Council. Neither I am against the idea of a reform of reform, if, in the reform, there is a rectification.”  Yves Chiron fortunately remarked this extract in his Aletheia of March 2nd 2003.


I readily share this opinion.


Besides, it corresponds to what Archbishop Lefebvre thought.  He told me the same thing one day in the car.  He spoke about the Council and told me that the pope could, either by himself through documents or by a commission of cardinals named to this end, rectify the ambiguities of the Council, rather in the same way as Pope Paul VI did himself about the Collegiality by imposing – in the middle of the Council – a papal act : the famous “nota praevia” which gave the right interpretation on an equivocal text voted by the Council Fathers.


This is precisely what the pope is doing today through this Encyclical Letter, “Ecclesia de Eucharistia”.  He corrects the weak points and gives the right interpretation.  He gives the rectification on the omissions and the ambiguities of the liturgical reform. 


I would also point out that we must not forget the rectification of the translation of orisons and many other texts.  Yet we know that Cardinal Arinze is working on the subject as well as the Congregation, which has been working on it for almost a year. 




I would also add that the true Roman Missal, that is that of Saint Pius V, will have to be respected and honoured again.  We will also have to declare it to be neither abrogated nor prohibited.  Bishop Fellay asked it in his April 25th interview to Il Giornale, for this multi-secular custom cannot be prohibited.  As manner of fact, it has never been the case canonically.  I have argued in this direction before the very official Cardinal Daneels in Brussels in 2001 (cf. Item 2).  During the restoration, Saint Pius V himself respected the rites that were more than 200 years old. His Roman Missal is now more than 200 years old itself in the Church. It is now time for the restitution of that missal, that is Saint Pius V’s. Besides, Cardinal Ratzinger, in his book Here is Our God (Voici quel est notre Dieu), was already stating that “it is also important to stop banishing the liturgical form that was in effect until 1970” (page 291).




Fourth conclusion



Consequently, it seems to me that the Church is tending towards a revival of liturgical pluralism -- which would even be acceptable doctrinally since the new rite is reformed in a Catholic sense-- as it used to be without any problem before the liturgical reform as Vatican II itself admits it in “Sacrotanctum concilium” (n4). As a matter of fact, there used to be, beside the Roman Missal, the Lyon rite, the Dominican rite, the Carthusian rite and maybe some more within the Latin Church, not to mention the Eastern rites of Uniat Orthodox Churches.

Cardinal Ratzinger himself confessed to it in a lecture, “Ecclesia Dei Afflicta,” he gave to the Catholics in Rome in 1998. Yet the liturgical reform destroyed this rich variety. One rite had to rule -- all revolutions are totalitarian -- and it was that of Paul VI. Bishop Bunigni went himself to the Carthusian monastery to make the monks abandon their Carthusian rite for the benefice of that of Paul VI.

Those totalitarian times are behind us. Let us hope. They have done so much harm...


We are thus drawing near the return of liturgical pluralism. The pope’s Encyclical Letter will be its source. And that may be why, in the Letter itself, as though to recall their legitimacy, the pope speaks of the different liturgies. He speaks about that of Saint James in n23, about that of Saint John Chrysostom, and that of Saint Basil in footnote 91. Why such a reminder? Just to look knowledgeable and scholarly?

Why not to accustom minds to this true ecclesial reality of pluralism. Aren’t the bishops of France going to have a hard time accepting that! But the pope has spoken! Causa finita est!


And it is with that in mind that the pope’s phrase in n49 can be fully understood: “with due respect for the various legitimately constituted ecclesial traditions.” And isn’t Saint Pius V’s Roman rite among them!





Final conclusion: a spark of hope!



Consequently, Father Barthe seems to go in the right direction when, after witnessing the Catholic hierarchy’s endeavour to restore Saint Pius’s rite within the Church


     1) by creating a personal apostolic Administration with the explicit recognition of Saint Pius’s           rite


     2) by recommending the bishops to create in their dioceses personal parishes (this idea was               neither expressed in the Idult of 84 nor in the Motu Proprio of 88) for the faithful devoted             to this rite         


     3) by wishing to settle the case of  Society Saint Pius X by recognizing its right to celebrate               the traditional mass


he states: “We are going towards a global treatment of this doctrinal and/or liturgical refusal of the Council” (Catholica n79 p65).


I would add that this treatment will take place through the recognition of Saint Pius V’s rite, the return to liturgical pluralism and the “catholicization” of Paul VI’s liturgical reform.



Father Paul Aulagnier




Translated into English by Jean-François Roy