Rorate Caeli

Remembering the Pope of Summorum Pontificum

The middling homily by the current Dean of the College of Cardinals - marked by the very relevant words, "tirelessly promoting justice and peace, the world order" (that is exactly what he pronounced, though the official transcript and translations did not include the words "l'ordine mondiale") - provided another stark reminder of how much Benedict XVI will be missed. The difference between this sermon, and that pronounced by the Dean of the College, Cardinal Ratzinger, right before the 2005 Conclave is stunning.

We shall always remember Benedict XVI, the Pope of Summorum Pontificum, and thank him for his Pontificate:

And as they went on, walking and talking together, behold a fiery chariot, and fiery horses parted them both asunder: and Elias went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Eliseus saw him, and cried: My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the driver thereof. And he saw him no more” (2 Kings 2, 11-12). This episode from the Old Testament echoes the emotions of the Catholic world on Thursday 28 February, as we saw a white helicopter lift our dear Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI into the clouds, never again to be seen as our Supreme Pastor. Like Eliseus, we had been told of the pending ‘assumption’ of our guide and father, and like him we had counted the hours, as filial sadness blossomed in our hearts, thinking: “Does this have to happen? Why must he go? Can it not be avoided, or at least postponed? How will we ever manage without him?”

There will be time to ponder the consequences of this resignation. Meanwhile, the current interregnum teaches us anew that as the pope is the visible head of the Church, Our Lord Jesus Christ is her invisible head; and while the visible head does change when a pontiff dies (or resigns), Our Lord never ceases to govern His beloved Church, although invisibly.

With our fellow Catholics, we who are attached in a particular way to the Roman traditions of Holy Mother Church now look back and reflect on the 8-year-long pontificate now ended. We are grateful to Pope Benedict for his support of the traditions of the Church, especially the liturgical ones, centred around the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Naturally each group and trend within the Church tends to see their own needs as essential, possibly overlooking the expectations of others. However, it was not to please a faction, but for the wider good of the universal Church that Pope Benedict lifted the restrictions on the traditional liturgy in his motu proprioSummorum Pontificum (7 July 2007). As explained in the instructionUniversae Ecclesiae (30 April 2011): “The Motu Proprio manifests his solicitude as Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church, and has the aim of: a. offering to all the faithful [emphasis ours] the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved; b. effectively guaranteeing and ensuring the use of the forma extraordinaria for all who ask for it, given that the use of the 1962 Roman Liturgy is a faculty generously granted for the good of the faithful and therefore is to be interpreted in a sense favourable to the faithful who are its principal addressees; c. promoting reconciliation at the heart of the Church” (#8). We can note that the Holy Father’s primary aim was the benefit of all Catholic faithful, irrespective of their knowledge of the traditional liturgy. This shows that the usus antiquior pertains to the very essence and future of the Church. It is not a transitory option given to please a minority but a vital component within the expression of perennial Catholicism. Therefore gratitude to Pope Benedict for Summorum Pontificum is not just our own, but that of the whole universal Church, in the same spirit of universality, i.e. of catholicity, which inspired his support to the traditional liturgy. Our thanks are therefore not self-serving but fraternal, for his service to all our Catholic brethren. (Dowry - periodical of the English District of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, Winter/2013, Editorial)