Dear Brothers in Christ,

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has promulgated as effective immediately a Motu Proprio letter regarding the regulation of the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum recognized that “many desired to find the form of the sacred Liturgy dear to them” and “clearly accepted the binding character of Vatican Council II and were faithful to the Pope and to the Bishops,” and so he felt that fears of division in parish communities were unfounded because, “the two forms of the Roman Rite would enrich one another.”

Over these last thirteen years since its implementation, communities, parishes, social media and individuals have not been faithful to Pope Benedict’s vision and heartfelt desire, but, instead, have in some cases cast aspersions, separated into factions and, in fact caused great division, thus breaking faith with Pope Benedict’s vision and heartfelt and desire. As a result, Pope Francis, has endeavored to bring an orderly approach to that enrichment which his predecessor Pope Benedict sought for the good of the Church.

Pope Francis prefaces his Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes by recalling the desire for true unity even as Saint Paul wrote when he experienced the “I belong to Paul; I belong to Apollos; I belong to Cephas; I belong to Christ” controversies. The Holy Father is strong in his sentiments of charity, of understanding and of fidelity to the Tradition and he wishes all to understand with him, the value of the Extraordinary Form when carried out properly and the value of the Ordinary Form when carried out properly.

The Holy Father clearly stands vigorously with his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI as he says, “I deplore the fact that ‘in many places the prescriptions of the new Missal are not observed in celebration, but indeed
come to be interpreted as an authorization for or even a requirement of creativity, which leads to almost unbearable distortions.’” Pope Francis continues: “But I am nonetheless saddened that the instrumental use of Missale Romanum of 1962 is often characterized by a rejection, not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself.”

The Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes
provides eight (8) specific Articles to be understood, implemented, followed and fully carried out in a desire for unity within the Church and an expression of love within the whole of the Body of Christ so that what is celebrated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the
Ordinary or Extraordinary Form is not contradicted by disparaging attitudes and unhealthy, unfounded division.

The Holy Father states at the beginning of these Articles what has always been the case: “It is his (the diocesan bishop) exclusive competence to authorize the use of the 1962 Missale Romanum in the diocese, following the guidelines of the Holy See.” Speaking of the pastoral care of the people, the Holy Father requires a close working relationship between the diocesan bishop’s delegate and the faithful who constitute groups who worship according to the Extraordinary Form.

Ordained priests who already exercise the faculty to celebrate the Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum must now request that faculty from the diocesan bishop. Priests ordained after today’s date of promulgation of the Motu Proprio do not enjoy the faculty, but must submit a formal request to the diocesan
bishop who will consult with the Apostolic See before granting the authorization.

On a personal note, these last two Articles reflect the normal course I must follow when, at the request of the Ruthenian Bishop I first petitioned Rome for the Bi-Ritual faculty and then requesting renewal through the Congregation for the Eastern Churches every five years. This practice helps to ensure that the liturgy is in conformity with all rubrics and requirements and that the faculty is not misused. I believe that this practice will serve the Extraordinary Form with the same purpose and to the same effect.

As regards our relationship with the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) the Holy Father has acknowledged and accepted all those Congregations and says, “The Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, erected at the time by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei come under the competence of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.” As such, the Congregations mentioned will exercise the authority of the Holy See and provide the supervising observance.

It may be by the Grace of God that, having been partakers in a certain “Babylonian Captivity” by the pandemic in our own time, we come back under the guidance of the Successor of St. Peter to enjoy the fruits of the Redeemer’s Sacrifice that has brought us back. The Holy Father clearly desires that we share the full
and rich and ripened fruits of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass without division or any hint of distaste. Instead, the Holy Father enjoins us to come to the Lord as one; come to the Lord in the way that Tradition has provided. Let us respect the Holy Sacrifice and adhere to the rubrics proper to the particular form – without
any hint that one is better than the other, but that the Church and in this case, the Successor of St. Peter has called us to that place of spiritual refreshment and peaceful rest.

While the Holy Father’s Motu Proprio has already taken effect today, I will begin to consult with you on the issues that the Holy Father raises so that we can partake of the Holy Fruit of God’s goodness in Christ in advance of our instrumentality of God’s imparting that Grace to the Faithful through our celebration of the Mass.
Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Peter A. Libasci, D.D.
Bishop of Manchester