Catholics Celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass During the 10th ‘Summorum Pontificum’ Pilgrimage in Rome

The pilgrimage took place just months after Pope Francis issued his motu proprio Traditionis Custodes (Keepers of Tradition) that limited the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass.

The Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021.
The Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021. (photo: Edward Pentin)

VATICAN CITY — The 10th Summorum Pontificum Rome Pilgrimage concluded over the weekend, drawing a throng of pilgrims, and comprising a traditional Solemn High Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. 

The Oct. 29-31 pilgrimage, held annually since 2012, followed its usual practice of beginning with traditional Vespers on Friday at the basilica of Santa Maria “ad Martyres” (the ancient Pantheon). Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament then followed on Saturday morning, continuing with a procession to St. Peter’s Basilica where a Solemn High Mass was celebrated at the Altar of the Chair.

The Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage took place just months after Pope Francis issued his motu proprio Traditionis Custodes (Keepers of Tradition) that limited the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass. It reversed Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum (The Supreme Pontiffs), which made more widespread the celebration of the traditional liturgy according to the 1962 Roman Missal — the form of the of the Latin rite in universal use until the new form was introduced in 1970. 

Under the terms of the Traditionis Custodes, the diocesan bishop has the “exclusive competence” to authorize the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in his diocese, granting permission to priests who wish to celebrate the older form of the Mass and those already doing so and ending the right for groups to have this form of the Mass celebrated in parish churches. 

The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021. Preacher: Msgr. Descourtieux
The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021.

 A concluding Sung Mass was celebrated at the church of Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini in Rome on Sunday, the traditional solemnity of Christ the King.  

“It’s been a very positive pilgrimage,” said Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society of Great Britain. “There’s been a better turnout than any other year, certainly in my experience. We had more than 500 people in St. Peter’s, that part of the basilica was packed, and it was wonderful, a really spiritual experience.”

The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021. Preacher: Msgr. Descourtieux
The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021.

The celebrant for that Mass was Msgr. Patrick Descourtieux, a French prelate and official in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Father Descourtieux, who is reportedly on good terms with Pope Francis and plays the organ in Santa Martha, used to head the “tradition” section of the CDF until that office was disbanded in September. 

The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021. Preacher: Msgr. Descourtieux
The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021.

 

The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021. Preacher: Msgr. Descourtieux
The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021.

 

The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021. Preacher: Msgr. Descourtieux
The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021.

 Society Visit

Before the pilgrimage began, Shaw and a colleague visited several dicasteries and held meetings with senior Curial officials and came away pleasantly surprised. 

The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021. Preacher: Msgr. Descourtieux
The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021.

“We were being reassured rather than warned off,” he told the Register. “It’s not the case they want us to go away and die in a corner somewhere, certainly that’s the message at the moment. We’ve come across a surprisingly upbeat attitude.” 

The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021. Preacher: Msgr. Descourtieux
The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021. Preacher: Msgr. Descourtieux

 

The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021. Preacher: Msgr. Descourtieux
The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021.

 “We all have to maintain our unity with the Holy Father, with our fellow Catholics, with our local bishops,” Shaw said. “That’s not an issue specific to traditional Catholics, and there’s also an ongoing theological debate about the traditional Mass represented by people like [sacramental theology professor at the Pontifical Atheneum of Saint Anselm in Rome] Andrea Grillo and his criticisms of it, and we can address them in an intellectual way. 

The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021. Preacher: Msgr. Descourtieux
The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021.

 “But as for a specific target of a group of people who are doing something that’s wrong, that’s bad, it doesn’t seem to be anything identifiable,” he said.  

The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021. Preacher: Msgr. Descourtieux
The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021.

 

Concluding Homily

In his homily at the concluding Mass of the pilgrimage on Sunday, Father Claude Barthe said the feast of Christ the King, established by Pope Pius XI in 1925, aimed to remind the faithful that nations, once baptized, must follow the Lord’s mandate to reinstate “the regency of Christ” over all institutions so they may be “properly called Christian Cities.” 

The procession to St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Solemn High Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica, Oct. 30, 2021. Preacher: Msgr. Descourtieux
The closing Mass at the Rome church of Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini, Oct. 31, 2021.

That was a challenge then and is even more so now, he observed, but in spite of this, he added, “we must continue to maintain our hope in the Catholic City.” 

Father Barthe, chaplain to the Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage, recalled that the traditional form of the Mass was formed when the West “was becoming and constituting itself as Christian.” The Roman Mass, he said, “was fully constituted when the ideal of Christianity reached its maturity. It is a Mass of Christianity.” 

He noted that above all, theologically, the older form of the Mass is not only sacrificial but also royal and its “anti-modern character,” contrasting with a “liturgy that imitates profane fashions and language, helps us powerfully to put the priestly and royal mark of Christ on the whole of our personal, family and public life.”

This is especially significant today, he said, when the kingship of Christ resembles more than ever what it was during the Passion of Our Lord, when Christ was rejected and mocked. 

Since their origins, Father Barthe said, modern states have rejected the Lord’s reign over them, “as have the supra- or para-national, financial and ideological groups that govern us.” They repeat this “daily,” he said, “especially displaying their hatred of the law inscribed by God in the hearts of men.”

Any yet, in the face of “this extreme abasement of Christ’s kingship,” Father Barthe said the faithful “must use this apostate world as if not using it,” fulfilling the duty of “action and abstention, which may vary according to the individual, his or her condition, and abilities” along with “the imperative obligation” to pass on what has been received to the generations to come. 

A priest of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon in France, Father Barthe urged the faithful to adopt the Good Thief’s confession — “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 

“In other words, while Peter has denied it, and all the Apostles, except for St John, have gone into hiding, it is this dying man who makes the most formidable confession of Christ's kingship, thus becoming the first Christian saint: ‘This very night you will be with me in paradise,’” Father Barthe said. “Let this confession be ours.”

Horace Vernet, “The Angel of Death,” 1851

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“Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven — through a purification or immediately — or immediate and everlasting damnation.” (CCC 1022)

Horace Vernet, “The Angel of Death,” 1851

Don’t Wait to Cram for Your ‘Final Exam’

“Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven — through a purification or immediately — or immediate and everlasting damnation.” (CCC 1022)

Francisco de Zurbarán, “The Family of the Virgin,” ca. 1650

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“After her Son’s Ascension, Mary ‘aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers.’ In her association with the apostles and several women, ‘we also see Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation.’” (CCC 965)