The domes of St. Peter's Basilica are seen at sunset in Rome. (CNS photo by Nancy Wiechec)
Edward Pentin’s September
21 article for the National Catholic Registeron
rumors that Pope Benedict XVI might celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form at
the Vatican on November 3 for a group of traditionalist pilgrims from around
the worldhelped to kindle media interest in the upcoming pilgrimage, of which the
Mass at St. Peter’s is the crowning event. While the rumors have proven unfoundedit
was announced last week that Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, prefect of the
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, will be
the celebrant of the November 3 Massthe three-day gathering of supporters of
the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum is expected
to draw international attention to the growing number of Catholics devoted to
the older form of the Roman Rite.
Father Claude Barthe
is the official chaplain of the pilgrimage, which is being organized by the Coetus
Internationalis Pro Summorum Pontificum,
a group that brings together the traditionalist Catholic organizations from
different countries. Father Barthe has graciously granted this exclusive
interview about the upcoming pilgrimage.
CWR: Father, there
are people who would like to know a bit more about you. Can you please give us
your brief curriculum vitae?
Claude Barthe: I was born in 1947 in Fleurance, in the southwest of
France. My vocation goes back to my Catholic childhood. I studied at the
Catholic Institute of Toulouse, as a diocesan seminarian, but the
post-conciliar revolution forced me to leave the seminary. Then I studied
history and law, appreciating the traditional liturgy, so much so that I went
to Ecône where I was ordained a priest by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1979.
Afterward I sided with the traditionalist “hardliners,” and then increasingly
Roman, eventually becoming a diocesan priest. I also teach liturgy.
CWR: But how did
the idea of this traditional pilgrimage come about, and why were you chosen
as its chaplain?
Father Barthe: The idea of
a traditional pilgrimage and a Mass in St. Peter’s for the “Summorum Pontificum people”from both dioceses and
congregations, including the Fraternity of St. Pius Xhas been
unfolding for about a year from Roman circles upholding the “reform of the reform,”
where the extraordinary form of the Latin rite is considered to be the real
backbone for a true revival of the liturgy. They thought of me for the (very
small!) role of chaplain because I am seen as a supporter of “the union of the
living forces,” namely of traditionalists of all persuasions.
CWR: On September
10, you held a press conference to formally announce the pilgrimage. Could you
summarize the salient aspects of what was said on the occasion?
First I wanted to point out that it will be a thanksgiving.
The pilgrims will assist at a Mass in the extraordinary form in thanksgiving
and support for the Holy Father upon the occasion of the fifth anniversary of
the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which, as is
known, went into effect September 14, 2007. For many priests, diocesan and
religious, who now celebrate their daily Mass in the extraordinary form, it is
a truly immense spiritual benefit, as well as for the faithful of the parishes
who can also enjoy this liturgy and its transcendence. It can be said that this
act of Benedict XVI gave birth to a true “People of Summorum
Pontificum.” These people want to thank him.
I must say that this
will also be a demonstration of loyalty to Peter. The second purpose is to
manifest our love for the Church and our fidelity to the See of Peter,
particularly in the current difficult and bitter situation. We are well aware
of the difficult work that the Holy Father faces today. The Traditional Roman
Mass, in particular its Canon, has always been considered as a magnificent
profession of Faith of the Church, Mater et Magistra:
this is the liturgical creed that we would like to celebrate on the Tomb of the
Apostles, with the Successor of Peter. And then our initiative will also be an
offer and a plea. We want to donate this special gift to the Lordabove all to
ask him the graces necessary for the Supreme Pontiff to continue the wonderful
work he’s done from the beginning of his pontificate and, especially today,
amid crosses and trials.
CWR: As the
pilgrimage takes place soon after the opening of the Year of Faith, do you see
a relationship between the two events?
Father Barthe: Sure. Our
pilgrimage will also be an expression of participation in the mission of the
Church. We would like to contribute to the “new evangelization” that the Holy
Father wishes to promote by means of the Year of Faith with the ever-young traditional
liturgy. It is quite clear that this ever-young traditional liturgy is the
support of a large number of familiesas well as many Catholic organizations
and initiatives, especially for young people (oratories, schools, catechism
classes)and is the source of a constantly growing number of priestly and
religious vocations, which today in the western world is an extremely valuable
CWR: I would say
that sometimes there is not enough reflection on this vocational “crisis”
experienced by traditional institutions, as opposed to that of ordinary
dioceses, in the sense that the former are often forced to reject candidates
for the priesthood due to a lack of facilities.
Father Barthe: It seems to me
that it is necessary to insist on this point. By the grace of God, in some
countries, such as France and the United Statesbut the phenomenon could
concern other areas as wellthe traditional liturgy, unfortunately without filling
all voids, keeps growing in the important area of vocations. In France, for
example, in addition to 710 diocesan seminarians, there are 140 French
seminarians (including 50 of the SSPX) who are dedicated to the extraordinary formthat is to
say, 16 percent of all vocations to the priesthood in France. Furthermore, the
spiritual dispositions of this diocesan clergy is also in full transformation:
young diocesan priests and diocesan seminarians are attracted to the
celebration of the two forms of the Rite and specifically say so (in France, it
is no exaggeration to say that at least one third of candidates for the diocesan
priesthood can be considered favorable to Summorum Pontificum).
This is what we would
like to express with the pilgrimage and Mass in St. Peter’s on November 3: what
you can call the “People of Summorum Pontificum”“le petit people” as they say
in French to indicate ordinary peopleis now available to the Holy Father for
the Church’s mission.
CWR: Any final reflections
on the upcoming pilgrimage?
I would saywith words that are by no means “theology”
but that the faithful will understandthat this Mass of November
3 intends to be a great “parish” mass: Catholics from all over the world come
to pray together with their universal pastor
the Pope. They all want to pray together for him and with him, in this Latin
Gregorian liturgy which is essentially a liturgy of communion.