Annual Requiem Latin Mass Canceled at Westminster Cathedral in London After 50 Years

The news has caused frustration among some of the faithful who often attend the traditional Latin Mass and have worshipped at the annual requiem Mass.

The requiem Mass of Sir David Amess at Westminster Cathedral, London, England, Nov. 23, 2021.
The requiem Mass of Sir David Amess at Westminster Cathedral, London, England, Nov. 23, 2021. (photo: Mazur/ / via CNA)

An annual requiem Mass that has been held at Westminster Cathedral in London for more than 50 years has been relocated amid the continued restrictions on the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass issued by the Vatican.

The annual sung Mass had been hosted by The Latin Mass Society since 1971 for the repose of the souls of its deceased members and benefactors. Although the Mass was scheduled to be celebrated again on Saturday, Nov. 4, the diocese informed The Latin Mass Society that the celebration was canceled due to the restrictions in Pope Francis’ 2021 motu proprio Traditionis Custodes.

In the motu proprio, issued by Pope Francis on July 16, 2021, the Pontiff directed bishops to designate specific locations for the Latin Mass but ordered that none of those locations can be parish churches. If the bishop wants to allow a parish church to continue its celebrations of the traditional Latin Mass, he must acquire a dispensation from the Holy See, which is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

A spokesperson for The Latin Mass Society told CNA that Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who presides over the Diocese of Westminster, told the society that the annual Mass “is not part of the cathedral’s pastoral provision for the traditional Mass” and that the cardinal did not ask Rome for a dispensation so they could continue the annual tradition.

The Latin Mass Society relocated the requiem Mass to Corpus Christi Catholic Church on Maiden Lane, which is designated as a diocesan shrine. It will be held on Monday, Nov. 6, at 6:30 p.m. Although the requiem Mass cannot be held at Westminster Cathedral, Cardinal Nichols did request a dispensation for the cathedral to continue its low Mass on the first Saturday of each month at 4 p.m.

“The cathedral is a parish church, so each Mass there needs explicit permission under the terms of Traditionis Custodes,” The Latin Mass Society spokesperson said. “He has asked for permission for the monthly Masses, and these continue while this is being considered.”

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Westminster told CNA that Traditionis Custodes “established new norms to govern the use of the missal” used for the traditional Latin Mass, prior to “the reform of 1970.”

Despite Pope Paul VI granting the “English Indult” in 1971 to allow bishops in England and Wales to permit celebrations of the Latin Mass, the diocesan spokesperson said “appealing to indults and customs that predated Traditionis Custodes cannot have any force” because of the changes decreed by Pope Francis. 

“Some permissions have been granted for the continued use of the missal antecedent to the reform of 1970 by groups of the faithful in the Diocese of Westminster,” the diocesan spokesperson added. “These permissions are now under review by the Holy See. No permission was sought or granted for the particular Mass in question.”

The news has caused frustration among some of the faithful who often attend the traditional Latin Mass and have worshipped at the annual requiem Mass previously held at Westminster Cathedral.

Roger Wemyss Brooks, a 77-year-old Catholic who has regularly attended the traditional Latin Mass since the early 1970s, including the annual requiem Mass on many occasions, told CNA he is “distressed by the decision by our pastors to withdraw this precious requiem treasured by supporters of The Latin Mass Society.” 

“Elderly Catholics like me depend upon the comfort of this annual Mass to compensate for the arbitrary withdrawal of individual traditional requiem Masses,” Brooks said. “Twice this year I have known of lifelong adherents of the traditional rite to have been deprived of their requiem at the time of their deaths. What we ask for is at least the kindness of what was liberally provided to our forefathers.”

Edward Windsor, who has served at the annual requiem Mass for the last five years, told CNA that “one of the most important roles of being Catholic is to pray for the faithful departed.”

“In what way does the [cardinal] feel then, as if he is fulfilling his duty as our shepherd to lead us to Christ, to encourage us in our faith, by canceling a Mass for the dead?” Windsor asked. “It shows rather that modernism has become more important than the actual sacrifice of the Mass.”

Since the issuance of Traditionis Custodes, the traditional Latin Mass has faced restrictions globally. In some dioceses, bishops have been able to secure temporary dispensations for some Masses to continue in parish churches, but these dispensations are only temporary. In some cases, bishops have neglected to seek dispensations and have instead moved the Masses into locations outside of parish churches.