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The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate have issued a series of official statements correcting errors of fact made in the sensationalized coverage of the recent Vatican intervention in the government of their religious institute and clarifying their own position and intentions. 

1) Figuring prominently both in Italian and English on the homepage of the F.F.I. international website is a brief statement about the Decree of the Congregation for Religious dated July 11, 2013. The statement affirms that “Fr. Stefano M. Manelli, together with the whole institute of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, submits in obedience to the Holy Father and trusts that this obedience will bring forth greater graces.” 

2) Also posted at the F.F.I. website is an “Official Note of 03 Aug 2013: A Response to Vatican Insider,” taking issue point-by-point with an anonymous article entitled “Lombardi: On the Latin Mass the Pope does not contradict Ratzinger,” signed “Editorial Staff” and dated August 2, 2013. The Vatican Insider article “contains calumnious statements against our Founder, Fr. Stefano M. Manelli, statements that we feel the duty to reject.  In the same article there is also untrue or imprecise information to which we wish to draw attention.” A summary of the clarifications follows. 

- Fr. Manelli never imposed the exclusive use of the Traditional Latin Mass on all F.I. communities, nor does he want it to become the exclusive use; he himself celebrates Mass in both the Ordinary and the Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite. 

- Before, during, and after the Apostolic Visitation (July 2012-July 2013) the exclusive or prioritized use of most F.F.I. communities has been the Novus Ordo (Mass and Breviary). 

- As Minister General, Fr. Manelli, together with his General Council, made a legitimate effort to promote the Extraordinary Form, according to the 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, the related 2011 instruction Universae Ecclesiae, and the decisions of their own General Chapter of 2008.  A letter from the General Council of the F.F.I. dated November 21, 2011 and sent to all the friaries gave guidelines for the use of the Extraordinary Form but did not make it obligatory.  Some friars challenged the letter, but the Ecclesia Dei Commission found it in keeping with the mind of Benedict XVI as expressed in the above-mentioned Instruction.

The anonymous journalist of Vatican Insider also erroneously implied that the F.F.I. had little reason or right to celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form, because it had been founded after Vatican II and had never been affiliated with the SSPX.  Summorum Pontificum, of course, is addressed to all institutes of consecrated life who may want to preserve the precious liturgical heritage of the Church. 

The F.F.I. spokesman emphasized that, as far as he knows, there has been no survey of all the members of the Institute; “therefore survey-based statements as to the will of the majority of the friars appear to us to be completely baseless.” 

Finally, “The only official spokesman of our Institute, especially in this delicate situation, remains our Procurator General, Fr. Alessandro Apollonio.”

3) “An Additional response to Vatican Insider” notes that the Apostolic Visitation of the Franciscan Friars was ordered, not by Pope Benedict XVI, but by the Prefect of the Congregation for Religious, Cardinal Braz de Aviz. 

4) The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate issued their own statement, noting that their General Chapter in May 2012 favored the co-existence of both forms for liturgical celebrations, and proposed the exclusive use of the Extraordinary Form only for the contemplative communities.  

5) In a “Declaration about some recent facts”, the F.F.I. distances itself from an online petition at the website of the Association “Corrispondenza Romana” collecting signatures to be sent to the Prefect of the Congregation for Religious protesting the decree of July 11, 2013.  It “rejects any attempt to use a matter internal to the Institute to attack the Pope and the Catholic Hierarchy, and appeals to all to maintain silence, respect, and prayer regarding the matter, in order to allow the competent authorities to carry out their task in peace for the good of the Church and of the Institute.” 

Vatican Insider had the decency to post at its Italian website the complete text of the official statements of the F.F.I. and conducted a brief interview with the Institute’s spokesman, Fr. Apollonio.
 
About the Author
Michael J. Miller 

Michael J. Miller translated Introduction to the Mystery of the Church by Benoit-Dominique de la Soujeole, O.P., for Catholic University of America Press.
 
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