Francis and Traditionalist Catholics

A brief summary of some of the Holy Father’s statements and gestures encouraging those devoted to the extraordinary form of the liturgy.

As expected, there was widespread media coverage of the first cardinals appointed by Pope Francis last month. But only a few media outlets noted that one of the new cardinals, Archbishop of Perugia Gualtiero Bassetti, is known for being closely associated, as both celebrant and homilist, with the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the traditional Latin Mass based on the 1962 missal and promulgated by Blessed John XXIII.

While there has been criticism—both muted and open—of Pope Francis from certain traditionalist circles, and concern that the new pope may be hostile to his predecessor’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and its implementation, there have been signs of the Holy Father’s openness to and pastoral concern for tradition-minded Catholics, including the elevation of Cardinal Bassetti.

Bishops of Apulia

During their ad limina visit, the bishops from Italy’s Apulia region had complained to Francis about the division created within the Church by the defenders of the Mass in the ancient rite, Vatican expert Sandro Magister reported on May 25, 2013. The issue was introduced by the archbishop of Bari, Francesco Cacucci, who told Vatican Radio that Pope Francis had exhorted the bishops to “live the relationship with the liturgy with simplicity and without superstructures” (English translation via Rorate Caeli). According to Magister, the bishop of Conversano and Monopoli, Domenico Padovano, reported that Pope Francis “exhorted him to be careful with the extremisms of certain Traditionalist groups, but also to treasure tradition and allow it to live in the Church along with innovation.” 

Several celebrations were held in honor of the 25th anniversary of two important traditional religious congregations, the Fraternité Saint-Vincent-Ferrier (FSVF) and the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP). The FSVF is rarely reported on outside of France, and it is not surprising that that country was the main focus of the congregation’s celebrations. The FSSP Silver Jubilee celebrations, on the other hand, started on June 27-29, 2013 at their Mother House in Wigratzbad (Germany) and culminated with a pilgrimage to Rome, where a series of ceremonies and events took place at the FSSP personal parish in Rome, Santissima TrinitÀ dei Pellegrini, on October 18. Other celebrations of the Silver Jubilee were scheduled in the US and France.

It was in connection with the FSSP anniversary that Pope Francis sent a letter-benediction dated October 28, addressed to the superior of the District of France, Father Vincent Ribeton, through the apostolic nuncio in Paris, Archbishop Luigi Ventura.

Expressing thanksgiving for the work accomplished by the FSSP at the service of ecclesial communion cum Petro et sub Petro, Pope Francis notes that “it was in a moment of great trial for the Church that the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter was created. … In a great spirit of obedience and hope, her founders turned with confidence to the Successor of Peter in order to offer the faithful attached to the Missal of 1962 the possibility of living their faith in the full communion of the Church.”

The Holy Father went on to encourage the members of the FSSP to pursue their mission of reconciliation among all the faithful, whatever their liturgical sensibility. “By way of the celebration of the sacred Mysteries according to the extraordinary form of the Roman rite and the orientations of the Constitution on the Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, as well as by passing on the apostolic faith as it is presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, may they contribute, in fidelity to the living Tradition of the Church, to a better comprehension and implementation of the Second Vatican Council.” The Holy Father concluded by exhorting the FSSP, according to their own charism, to take an active part in the mission of the Church in the world of today, through the testimony of a holy life, a firm faith, and an inventive and generous charity.


The highest concentration of traditional celebrations and events came a couple of weeks later with the second CISP (International Coordination Summorum Pontificum) pilgrimage, which brought to Rome a thousand tradition-minded Catholics from around the world over the weekend of October 24-27. Three pontifical Masses in the extraordinary form were celebrated during the pilgrimage, with the second featuring a message from the Pope to the celebrant, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, through his newly appointed secretary of state, then-Archbishop (now Cardinal) Pietro Parolin.

With his message, which was read to the faithful by the secretary to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, “His Holiness Pope Francis wishes to extend his most cordial welcome and hopes that, during your devout passage here among the tombs of the Apostles, you will comply more closely with Our Lord as celebrated at Mass and in the public prayer of the Church, and thus receive new energy in living the life of the Gospels. The Supreme Pontiff has called down upon you the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the maternal protection of the Mother of God, and gladly gives Your Eminence and all the Bishops, Priests, Religious, and faithful who have come to this sacred celebration his Apostolic Blessing to bring you all peace and spiritual zeal.”

FIUV-Latin Mass Society

Two other major traditionalist events took place in Rome in early November: the first Latin Mass Society (LMS) Pilgrimage, November 7-12, and the biennial Federatio Internationalis Una Voce (FIUV) General Assembly, November 9-10. Although the LMS pilgrims were not directly involved in this FIUV meeting, the choice of these dates meant Latin Mass supporters from both organizations, from many parts of the world, had opportunities to attend Solemn Masses and other traditional liturgies in major churches in Rome.

At the FIUV proceedings, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos was asked during the Open Forum on Sunday, November 10 about the situation of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. He also assured the audience that the measures adopted by the Holy See restricting the FFI’s use of the extraordinary form were taken only as a result of internal problems that had nothing to do with the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite: “I met Pope Francis very recently and he told me that he has no problem with the old rite, and neither does he have any problem with lay groups and associations like yours that promote it.”

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About Alberto Carosa 42 Articles
Alberto Carosa is a Catholic journalist who writes from Rome, especially for US Catholic newspapers and periodicals.