Summorum Pontificum

Summorum Pontificum (English: Of the Supreme Pontiffs) is an Apostolic Letter of Pope Benedict XVI, issued "motu proprio" (i.e. on his own initiative). The document specified the circumstances in which priests of the Latin Church may celebrate Mass according to the "Missal promulgated by John XXIII in 1962" (the form known as the Tridentine Mass), and administer most of the sacraments in the form used before the liturgical reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council.

The document, dated 7 July 2007 and in force since 14 September 2007, was released along with a letter in which Pope Benedict explained his reasons for issuing it.

The document replaced the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei of 1988, which allowed individual bishops to establish places where Mass could be said using the 1962 Missal. It granted greater freedom to use the Tridentine liturgy in its 1962 form, stating that all priests may freely celebrate Mass with the 1962 Missal privately, without having to ask for permission from anyone. It also provided that pastors (parish priests) and rectors of churches should willingly accept requests from stable groups who adhere to the preceding liturgical tradition ("ubi coetus fidelium traditioni liturgicae antecedenti adhaerentium continenter exsistit" - Article 5) for permission for a qualified priest to celebrate Mass for them using the 1962 Missal, and should "ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop".

In his accompanying letter, Pope Benedict explained that his action was aimed at broadly and generously providing for the rituals which nourished the faithful for centuries and at "coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church" with Traditionalist Catholics in disagreement with the Holy See, such as the members of the Society of St. Pius X. He stated that, while it had first been thought that interest in the Tridentine Mass would disappear with the older generation that had grown up with it, some young persons too have "felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the mystery of the Eucharist particularly suited to them." In view of fears expressed while the document was in preparation, he took pains to emphasize that his decision in no way detracts from the authority of the Second Vatican Council and that, not only for juridical reasons, but also because the requisite "degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language" are not found very often, the Mass of Paul VI remains the "normal" or "ordinary" form of the Roman Rite Eucharistic liturgy.

Read more about Summorum Pontificum:  History, Reactions, Universae Ecclesiae

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