Will the Pope restore the Tridentine Mass?
An interview with Abbot Christopher M. Zielinski OSB
Our Lady of
Will the Pope restore the Tridentine
Abbot: The Tridentine Mass, the Mass of St. Pius V cannot be
considered abolished by the so-called new mass of Paul VI. We must never forget
that the Second Vatican Council was not a break from the past, but a renewal in
continuity. That is why the question regarding the liturgy must be one of
seeking the true sense of the Council and implementing it. Therefore, the
question that needs to be asked is whether or not the Indult of Pope John Paul
II and the creation of the Pontifical Commission of Ecclesia Dei, that gave
permission to the Bishops to allow for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass,
was implemented in the spirit of justice and compassion.
Well, was the
Indult of John Paul II implemented in the spirit of justice and
Abbot: Unfortunately, some Bishops have not always granted
the Indult. When this did happen, the conditions were often very difficult and
almost impossible for its practical implementation. Therefore, if there is to be
a motu proprio regarding a universal indult for the Old Mass, it means that the
present one is not meeting the pastoral needs of the traditionalist world.
But is the traditionalist world so important that the Holy Father should
risk his pontificate by giving them a motu proprio?
Abbot: Jesus Christ,
when talking about the Good Shepherd and the lost sheep, spoke about leaving the
ninety-nine in order to seek out the one. We are talking about one percent. But
we are also talking about the very vocation of the Good Shepherd. It is
interesting to note that some Bishops speak about the Traditionalists as a “drop
in the ocean.” As a matter of fact, the traditionalist world constitute a little
over one percent of the Catholic Population. How Christ-like indeed it would be
to offer a gesture of pastoral love in the form of a motu proprio!
a motu proprio be for the intention of bringing the Lefebvrians back to
Abbot: The motu proprio would be a response of justice and
compassion not only to the traditionalist world, but also to the Church as a
whole. We must never think that a motu proprio would be written only for the
Lefebvrians. As Archbishop A. M. Ranjith, secretary of the Congregation for
Divine Worship stated very clearly, “The Tridentine Mass is a treasure for the
entire People of God and not the private property of the Society of St. Pius X.”
But I am most certain that those in the Society are praying and waiting with
great hope for a motu proprio regarding a universal indult for the Old
What is your relationship with the Lefebvrian world?
I met Bishop Bernard Fellay, the Superior of the Society of St. Pius X, more
than five years ago. During that time, I have come to know many other priests,
and also monks and religious who are connected with the Society. I was invited
to speak at the recent Congress of “Si, Si. No, No” in Paris. And there, I spoke
about my experience of the Tridentine Mass as a recovery of the sacrificial
nature of the Mass. The Traditional Rite has a very important role to play in
the Church. It can enhance reverence and the sense of mystery and awe before
I am honored by their friendship and also their trust. I have
been able to listen and enter deeply into not only their preoccupations and
fears, but also their immense love for the Church and for the Holy Father. Their
words, articles and letters can seem to some to be very strong, and therefore,
cause much distress; however, what they say about the liturgy and theology is
not to be overlooked or dismissed. Until there is full unity and full mutual
charity, one cannot be scandalized if there is some “verbal
But some Bishops affirm that the Lefebvrians should
recognize the legitimacy of the Pope.
Abbot: Unfortunately, even at high
levels in the Church, there is not always full knowledge of the Society. The
Society has always recognized the legitimate successor of St. Peter. There are
traditionalist groups that do not recognize the last popes after Pius XII. These
are called “empty throne” people. Visiting some of the Societies’ houses, I was
amazed to see the photo of Benedict XVI and also to know that they pray daily
for him and the Church.
Do you think that a possible motu proprio would
help the Lefebvrians return to Rome?
Abbot: I believe that a motu
proprio would be a first step towards full communion. However, the simple
restoration of the Old Mass is not only what the Society is looking for. They
are asking very serious theological and liturgical questions that we must
address. Otherwise, we reduce the whole question of Monsignor Fellay and the
members of the Society to a question of choreography and not to substantial
questions of faith. The motu proprio, therefore, is a beginning. But also, it is
the possible beginning of a reform and renewal of the sacramental character of
the liturgy; and therefore, the beginning of a liturgical movement that wants
for the People of God a new awakening of the faith.
priests and theologians say that a motu proprio allowing broader use of the
Tridentine Rite would “plunge us back into the liturgical life of another age.”
What is your thought about this?
Abbot: Liturgical time is a sacred and
holy time. I guess we could call it “timeless.” And the reason is that the Mass
has to do with eternity and not with days, weeks, months or years.
there need of a new liturgical reform?
Abbot: I believe that the Dogmatic
Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium was a response to a widely held conviction
that the liturgy needed a reform. The Council Fathers were seeking to bring out
the community aspects of the mass, as well as make it more effective in teaching
the truths of the Catholic Faith. Unfortunately, the theological necessity for a
continuity in the underlying doctrine and structure of the celebration of the
Mass in its preconciliar and post conciliar forms had undergone a rupture or
break with Tradition. That is what we are dealing with today. The Second Vatican
Council clearly called for some modest reforms in the liturgy, but it intended
them to be organic and clearly in continuity with the past. The Old Rite becomes
a living treasure of the Church and also should provide a standard of worship,
of mystery, and of catechesis toward which the celebrations of the Novus Ordo
must move. In other words, the Tridentine Mass is the missing link. And unless
it be re-discovered in all its faithful truth and beauty, the Novus Ordo will
not respond to the organic growth and change that has characterized the liturgy
from its beginning. This is what should be prompting many of us to the founding
of a new liturgical movement which will be able to give back to the liturgy its
sacramental and supernatural character, and awaken in us a faithful
understanding of the Catholic Liturgy.