In the form "motu proprio"
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."
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
"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." Thus our predecessors Clement VIII, Urban VIII, St.
Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XII and Blessed John XXIII all played a
In more recent times, the Second Vatican Council 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."
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 Blessed John XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary
expression of that same "Lex orandi," and must be given due honor 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 Blessed
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 Blessed 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 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 harmonizes with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish,
under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with Canon 392, avoiding
discord and favoring the unity of the whole Church.
§2 Celebration in accordance with the Missal of Blessed 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, i.e., pilgrimages.
§4 Priests who use the Missal of Blessed 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 Blessed John XXIII, the readings may be given in
the vernacular, using editions recognized 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 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.
§ 2 Clerics ordained "in sacris constitutis" may use the Roman Breviary
promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.
Art. 10. The ordinary of a particular place, if he feels it
appropriate, may erect a personal parish in accordance with Canon 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, 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 Sept. 14 of this year, feast of the Exaltation
of the Cross, whatever there may be to the contrary.
From Rome, at St. Peter's, July 7, 2007, third year of Our Pontificate.
 General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 3rd ed., 2002, No. 397.
 John Paul II, apostolic letter "Vicesimus Quintus Annus," Dec. 4,
1988, 3: AAS 81 (1989), 899.
 St. Pius X, apostolic letter issued "motu propio data," "Abhinc
Duos Annos," Oct. 23, 1913: AAS 5 (1913), 449-450; cf John Paul II,
apostolic letter "Vicesimus Quintus Annus," No. 3: AAS 81 (1989), 899.
 Cf John Paul II, apostolic letter issued "motu proprio data,"
"Ecclesia Dei," July 2, 1988, 6: AAS 80 (1988), 1498.
LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS
TO THE BISHOPS ON THE OCCASION OF THE PUBLICATION
OF THE APOSTOLIC LETTER "MOTU PROPRIO DATA"
ON THE USE OF THE ROMAN LITURGY
PRIOR TO THE REFORM OF 1970
My dear Brother Bishops,
With great trust and hope, I am consigning to you as Pastors the text
of a new Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio data" on the use of the Roman
liturgy prior to the reform of 1970. The document is the fruit of much
reflection, numerous consultations and prayer.
News reports and judgments made without sufficient information have
created no little confusion. There have been very divergent reactions
ranging from joyful acceptance to harsh opposition, about a plan whose
contents were in reality unknown.
This document was most directly opposed on account of two fears, which
I would like to address somewhat more closely in this letter.
In the first place, there is the fear that the document detracts from
the authority of the Second Vatican Council, one of whose essential
decisions -- the liturgical reform -- is being called into question. This
fear is unfounded. In this regard, it must first be said that the Missal
published by Paul VI and then republished in two subsequent editions
by John Paul II, obviously is and continues to be the normal Form -- the
"Forma ordinaria" -- of the Eucharistic liturgy. The last version of
the "Missale Romanum" prior to the Council, which was published with the
authority of Pope John XXIII in 1962 and used during the Council, will
now be able to be used as a "Forma extraordinaria" of the liturgical
celebration. It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the
Roman Missal as if they were "two Rites". Rather, it is a matter of a
twofold use of one and the same rite.
As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a "Forma extraordinaria" of the
liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this
Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in
principle, was always permitted. At the time of the introduction of the new
Missal, it did not seem necessary to issue specific norms for the possible
use of the earlier Missal. Probably it was thought that it would be a
matter of a few individual cases which would be resolved, case by case,
on the local level. Afterwards, however, it soon became apparent that a
good number of people remained strongly attached to this usage of the
Roman Rite, which had been familiar to them from childhood. This was
especially the case in countries where the liturgical movement had
provided many people with a notable liturgical formation and a deep, personal
familiarity with the earlier Form of the liturgical celebration. We
all know that, in the movement led by Archbishop Lefebvre, fidelity to
old Missal became an external mark of identity; the reasons for the
break which arose over this, however, were at a deeper level. Many people
who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican
Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also
desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them.
This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not
faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually
was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which
frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am
speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all
its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations
of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the
faith of the Church.
Pope John Paul II thus felt obliged to provide, in his Motu Proprio
"Ecclesia Dei" (2 July 1988), guidelines for the use of the 1962 Missal;
that document, however, did not contain detailed prescriptions but
appealed in a general way to the generous response of Bishops towards the
"legitimate aspirations" of those members of the faithful who requested
this usage of the Roman Rite. At the time, the Pope primarily wanted to
assist the Society of Saint Pius X to recover full unity with the
Successor of Peter, and sought to heal a wound experienced ever more
painfully. Unfortunately this reconciliation has not yet come about.
Nonetheless, a number of communities have gratefully made use of the
possibilities provided by the Motu Proprio. On the other hand, difficulties remain
concerning the use of the 1962 Missal outside of these groups, because
of the lack of precise juridical norms, particularly because Bishops,
in such cases, frequently feared that the authority of the Council
be called into question. Immediately after the Second Vatican Council
it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be
limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the
meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have
discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a
form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist,
particularly suited to them. Thus the need has arisen for a clearer juridical
regulation which had not been foreseen at the time of the 1988 Motu
Proprio. The present Norms are also meant to free Bishops from constantly
having to evaluate anew how they are to respond to various situations.
In the second place, the fear was expressed in discussions about the
awaited Motu Proprio, that the possibility of a wider use of the 1962
Missal would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities.
This fear also strikes me as quite unfounded. The use of the old
Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some
knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often. Already
from these concrete presuppositions, it is clearly seen that the new
Missal will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, not
only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual
situation of the communities of the faithful.
It is true that there have been exaggerations and at times social
aspects unduly linked to the attitude of the faithful attached to the
ancient Latin liturgical tradition. Your charity and pastoral prudence will
be an incentive and guide for improving these. For that matter, the two
Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new
Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old
Missal. The "Ecclesia Dei" Commission, in contact with various bodies
devoted to the "usus antiquior," will study the practical possibilities
in this regard. The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of
Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the
case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former
usage. The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite
parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated
with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will
bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this
I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue
this Motu Proprio updating that of 1988. It is a matter of coming to an
interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over
the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have
rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at
critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by
the Church's leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One
has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had
their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to
harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make
every effort to unable for all those who truly desire unity to remain
in that unity or to attain it anew. I think of a sentence in the Second
Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: "Our mouth is open to
you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you
are restricted in your own affections. In return widen your hearts
also!" (2 Corinthians 6:11-13). Paul was certainly speaking in another
context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this
subject. Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything
that the faith itself allows.
There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal.
In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no
rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great
for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or
even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches
which have developed in the Church's faith and prayer, and to give them
their proper place. Needless to say, in order to experience full
communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot,
as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new
books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent
with the recognition of its value and holiness.
In conclusion, dear Brothers, I very much wish to stress that these new
norms do not in any way lessen your own authority and responsibility,
either for the liturgy or for the pastoral care of your faithful. Each
Bishop, in fact, is the moderator of the liturgy in his own Diocese
(cf. "Sacrosanctum Concilium," 22: "Sacrae Liturgiae moderatio ab
Ecclesiae auctoritate unice pendet quae quidem est apud Apostolicam Sedem et,
ad normam iuris, apud Episcopum").
Nothing is taken away, then, from the authority of the Bishop, whose
role remains that of being watchful that all is done in peace and
serenity. Should some problem arise which the parish priest cannot resolve,
the local Ordinary will always be able to intervene, in full harmony,
however, with all that has been laid down by the new norms of the Motu
Furthermore, I invite you, dear Brothers, to send to the Holy See an
account of your experiences, three years after this Motu Proprio has
taken effect. If truly serious difficulties come to light, ways to remedy
them can be sought.
Dear Brothers, with gratitude and trust, I entrust to your hearts as
Pastors these pages and the norms of the Motu Proprio. Let us always be
mindful of the words of the Apostle Paul addressed to the presbyters of
Ephesus: "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the
Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God which
he obtained with the blood of his own Son" (Acts 20:28).
I entrust these norms to the powerful intercession of Mary, Mother of
the Church, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, dear
Brothers, to the parish priests of your dioceses, and to all the priests,
your co-workers, as well as to all your faithful.
Given at Saint Peter's, 7 July 2007
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana