Arlington-DC Pilgrimage for Traditional Latin Mass to Take Place Sept. 17

The pilgrimage will mark the 15th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter that liberalized the Church’s traditional liturgical rites.

The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., will be the destination for the ‘National Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage for the Restoration of the Latin Mass’ on Sept. 17.
The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., will be the destination for the ‘National Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage for the Restoration of the Latin Mass’ on Sept. 17. (photo: Robert Szymanski / Shutterstock)

Catholic faithful are organizing a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., later this month to express gratitude for the revival of the traditional Latin Mass, and as a “public act of sorrow” over what they call “devastating new restrictions” on the celebration of the old Mass.

“The National Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage for the Restoration of the Latin Mass” will take place on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 9am, beginning at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington and ending just over five miles away — or two hours’ walk — at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington.

The pilgrimage will commemorate the 15th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter that liberalized the usus antiquior, the liturgical rites used before reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council.

Pope Francis abrogated Benedict’s apostolic letter in July 2021 with his motu proprio Traditionis Custodes (“Guardians of the Tradition”) and imposed a number of severe restrictions on the use of the 1962 Roman Missal.

The Pope said he took the decision as Benedict’s reforms had not achieved the hoped-for unity between the two forms of the Roman rite due to the “instrumental use” of the 1962 Roman Missal. Basing his decision on the findings of a survey of bishops, but which reportedly showed most ordinaries favoring no change in the rules governing the ancient liturgy, he expressed his wish for the reformed liturgy to become “the unique expression” of the Catholic Church’s liturgy.

The restrictions have caused widespread dismay among adherents to the traditional Latin Mass, not least in Washington, D.C., where Cardinal Wilton Gregory is restricting it to just three locations from Sept. 21, and in Arlington, where Bishop Michael Burbidge will end celebrations of the traditional Mass in 13 parishes from Sept. 8, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Noah Peters, the chief organizer of the pilgrimage, told the Register that the new restrictions “will split apart and threaten to destroy several thriving parish communities” in the archdiocese of Washington and the diocese of Arlington, as well as prevent parishioners being able to marry or have their children baptized in the Old Rite. “Thriving parishes, full of large families, converts and young people, will be scattered,” he said. 

Peters said the response to the pilgrimage “both on social media and among TLM attendees that know has been absolutely tremendous,” and they expect hundreds to attend the event.

News of the initiative comes as liturgical abuses continue within the reformed liturgy, most notably in Chicago, where Cardinal Blase Cupich has led the charge in cracking down on the traditional Mass, including banning the Leonine prayers at the end of Mass and worship versus Deum (towards God). At the same time, he has frequently allowed irreverent worship in his archdiocese. Peters called it a “glaring double-standard” whose purpose, he believes, is to “scandalize traditionalists.” 

“With some exceptions, one of the beautiful things about the traditional Latin Mass is that it is almost impossible to celebrate it irreverently,” he said. “It is simply too demanding of the priests for them to think of anything but giving right worship to God.”

Peters added by contrast, an irreverent liturgy “is a scandal and an outrage” as it causes “absolutely immeasurable damage to the faith,” and encourages the laity to “see the Church as unserious and not deserving of respect, and that is precisely how many lay Catholics in fact view the Church today.

“The TLM is a serious, rigorous liturgy,” he continued, “and it produces serious, rigorous Catholics who challenge themselves to grow in faith and embrace even the most difficult teachings of the Church.”

Peters hopes the pilgrimage will yield “prayer and sacrifice to God,” and that it will be “an act of evangelization” and an expression of “gratitude” for the traditional Mass due to “how much it has enriched our own lives and the Church as a whole over the centuries.”

He also hopes it will help bring communities closer together. “We must build strong Catholic communities to survive these difficult times — and this is precisely what Traditionis has forced us to do,” Peters said. “Events like this help us meet and make friends and grow closer to one another. I have already made so many close friends in the year since Traditionis, and it has helped me grow in faith, hope and charity.”

The Arlington-Washington pilgrimage follows similar expressions of dismay elsewhere following the new restrictions, including a march from Paris to Rome from March 6 to May 1 by French faithful belonging to the La Voie Romaine association, and an almost weekly protest by French Catholics in front of the apostolic nunciature in Paris.

This Saturday will mark the 50th such demonstration. Last week the participants wrote a letter to apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, describing their “feelings of pain and anger at the unjust and, moreover, at the most inopportune persecution that Traditionis Custodes applies to the traditional liturgy.”

They called it an “unjust persecution because the worst abuses can develop without hindrance in the new liturgy,” because a section of French Catholics “are treated as sub-Catholics,” and due to what they described as a “wish to destroy the vocations that they produce.”

Noting that “traditional vocations are increasing,” they expressed the conviction that the “treasure that the ancient Roman liturgy represents for faith and piety will not disappear.

“That is why, on Saturday, we will meet again to pray and ‘keep watch’ on President Wilson Avenue [the location of the apostolic nunciature],” they wrote.

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