SERVICE OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CATHOLIC FAMILIES
PROPRIO SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM
This a non-official English-language translation of
the Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio data" of
Pope Benedict XVI, "Summorum Pontificum,"
concerning the use of the Roman liturgy prior to the
reform of 1970. The original text is written in Latin.
"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.' (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
"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
"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 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
"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
"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, e.g. pilgrimages.
§ 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 above permission.
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 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
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 Bl. John XXIII
"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 it.
"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
"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 contrary.
" From Rome, at St. Peter's, 7 July 2007, third
year of Our Pontificate."
General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 3rd ed., 2002,
(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. [Vatican Information Service] $$
Given below is the text of the
English-language version of Benedict XVI's Letter to
all the bishops of the world concerning his Motu Proprio
"Summorum Pontificum," which was published
on July 7th, 2007:
"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 the 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' (July 2, 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 St. 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
would 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
"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 Missal.
"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 Cor 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.
"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 Proprio.
"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.'
"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."
~ The Holy See Press Office today issued an explanatory
note concerning the Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum".
The most important paragraphs of the note are given
"The Motu Proprio 'Summorum Pontificum' lays down
new rules for the use of the Roman liturgy that preceded
the reform of 1970. The reasons for such provisions
are clearly explained in the Holy Father's letter to
bishops which accompanies the Motu Proprio (the two
documents have been sent to all the presidents of episcopal
conferences and to all nuncios, who have arranged to
distribute them to all bishops).
"The fundamental provision is as follows: the Roman
liturgy will have two forms ('usus'):
"a) The ordinary form is the one that follows the
liturgical reform undertaken by Pope Paul VI in the
year 1970, as it appears in the liturgical books promulgated
at that time. There is an official edition in Latin
which may be used always and everywhere, and translations
in divers languages published by the various episcopal
"b) The extraordinary form: which is that celebrated
in accordance with the liturgical books published by
Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962."
In paragraph 8 the note reads: "The bishop of a
particular place may erect a personal parish, wherever
there is to be found a very substantial number of faithful
who wish to follow the earlier liturgy. It would be
appropriate for the numbers of faithful to be substantial,
even if not comparable to those of other parishes."
The explanatory note also highlights some of the characteristics
of the 1962 Missal:
"It is a 'complete' or 'integral' Missal in the
Latin language, that is, it also contains the readings
for the celebrations (it is not distinct from the 'Lectionary'
as the later 1970 Missal is).
"It contains just one Eucharistic prayer, the 'Roman
Canon' (corresponding to the first Eucharist Prayer
of the later Missal, which includes a choice of various
"Various prayers (including a large part of the
Canon) are recited by the priest in a low voice inaudible
to the people.
"Other differences include the reading of the beginning
of the Gospel of John at the end of Mass.
"The 1962 Missal does not provide for concelebration.
It says nothing concerning the direction of the altar
or of the celebrant (whether facing the people or not).
"The Pope's Letter envisages the possibility of
future enrichment of the 1962 Missal (inclusion of new
saints, new prefaces, etc.)."
[Vatican Information Service]
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