Summorum Pontificum Conference Celebrates Benedict XVI’s Liturgical Legacy

The fourth annual conference to celebrate the document was held June 13 and centered on the theme 'A Treasure for the Whole Church.'

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller leads Benediction during the Summorum Pontificum Conference, at the Church of Sts. Dominic and Sixtus in Rome, on June 13.
Cardinal Walter Brandmüller leads Benediction during the Summorum Pontificum Conference, at the Church of Sts. Dominic and Sixtus in Rome, on June 13. (photo: CNA/Bohumil Petrik)

ROME — The fourth annual Summorum Pontificum Conference was held last Saturday in Rome to promote the understanding and use of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite and to discuss the liturgical heritage of Benedict XVI.

Benedict’s apostolic letter, Summorum Pontificum, was issued motu proprio (of his own volition), in 2007, acknowledging clearly the right of all priests of the Roman rite to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962, the form of the Mass used prior to the reforms which followed the Second Vatican Council.

The fourth annual conference to celebrate the document was held June 13 and centered on the theme, “A Treasure for the Whole Church.”

“In this moment of theological reflection, we wanted to make the liturgical treasures of the Church known, eight years after the publication of Benedict XVI’s document,” explained Dominican Father Vincenzo Nuara, in an interview with CNA June 13.

“In the past years, as this year, we have tried to deepen theological and liturgical topics which attain to the Latin Gregorian liturgy. We wanted to create a basis of study, of research and of debate for young theologians and to make known the treasure of this liturgy.”

The conference took place at Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, commonly called the Angelicum.

To close the meeting, a solemn pontifical Mass was said the following day by Cardinal Velasio De Paolis in the Holy Sacrament Chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica.

More than 200 participants of the conference listened to speakers, among them the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller.

“The two forms of the liturgy, the ordinary and extraordinary, should enrich each other,” he told CNA in an interview, “especially in the understanding of what liturgy is: that it is first and foremost the worship of God and not just an inter-social human gathering.”

Benedict’s writing was a milestone, because “those who had struggles with the renewed liturgy … have gained full right of being included in the Church,” he added.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, was also present, and spoke on “Tradition as the Foundation of the Catholic Liturgy.”

He expressed hope that the hermeneutic of continuity — Benedict’s understanding of Vatican II as being in line with the previous magisterium — would be advanced by the conference’s day of study.

“I want to express my desire that these reflections contribute in a small way to the liturgical renewal that the Second Vatican Council and the intention of the Council Fathers had, expressed by Pope Paul VI on the day of the publication of Sacrosanctum Concilium,” he said.

The head of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the Vatican department in charge of the extraordinary form, explained to CNA the necessary conditions for mutual enrichment.

“It can only happen where there are no ideological predispositions from either side. Where there is an ideological prejudice, it is more difficult, or almost impossible, to perceive the harmony of the unity of the two forms of the Roman rite,” Archbishop Guido Pozzo said.

Summorum Pontificum was promulgated July 7, 2007, and enabled the Missal of 1962 to be used freely in the liturgy of the Church, after it had been de facto prohibited after the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council.

Archbishop Pozzo pointed out that the document is not dated, but remains relevant: “I would say that the motu proprio is always actual in the liturgy of the Church, since the liturgy is timeless, and therefore always actual.”

“There needs to be more awareness in the Church that the two forms are not competing, they are not contradictory, but they complete each other mutually,” he added.

Another topic that was touched on was the role of the bishop in relation to the extraordinary form.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Maria Santissima in Astana, emphasized that it is not just the duty of a bishop to enable his flock to profit from the treasure of the extraordinary form, but should be cause for joy.

“It is for me very logical that every diocesan bishop has to have a joy when he states and sees that a group of his faithful — even when this group is small — desires to have this form of the liturgy, which the universal Church desires for all faithful.”

The conference is co-organized by the “Priestly Friends of Summorum Pontificum” and “Youth and Tradition,” both Italian associations that arose after the publication of Pope Paul’s 1963 constitution on the sacred liturgy.