Rorate Caeli

1. For the record: Franciscans of the Immaculate - three official responses to Vatican Insider and other official statements
2. IMPORTANT: Pope Benedict XVI did not order the FFI visitation, PCED supported FFI norms on use of Vetus Ordo in 2012
3. Texts and commentary from Rorate
4. Update: FFI spokesman: minority wanted to scrap TLM, current restrictions "deprive us of universal right granted in Summorum"

Before anything else, it is important that we take note of the declaration of obedience made by Fr. Stefano M. Manelli FFI, posted on the main page of the international website of this institute:

 Loving Obedience

With reference to the Decree of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, issued on July 11, 2013 (Prot. 52741/2012), Fr. Stefano M. Manelli, together with the whole Institute of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, submits in obedience to the Holy Father and trusts that this obedience will bring forth greater graces.

In our earlier post on this matter, published on July 29, (IMPORTANT: Pope Francis severely restricts the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate from celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass, imposes the Novus Ordo on all their priests) we raised four observations, the second and third of which are as follows:

2) One justification now being raised is that the FFI's application of Summorum Pontificum had caused discord in many communities and that the Traditional Latin Mass was "imposed" brutally on priests who did not want it. On the contrary, we in Rorate, who have been closely observing the FFI since 2008, can affirm that the opposite is the case: Summorum was applied in a very gradual manner by the FFI, the Novus Ordo was never forbidden in their houses and sanctuaries, and in many parts of the world the FFI continued to offer the Novus Ordo predominantly. It ought to be noted as well that the FFI, in their promotion of the "Forma Extraordinaria", have been remarkably free of polemics and public attacks on the Novus Ordo.  
3) Yet another justification now being used is that this action is acceptable because the FFI were not founded with the TLM as an essential part of their charism. This excuse is incomprehensible as it completely ignores the rights given by Summorum Pontificum to religious priests. Furthermore, if the dissatisfaction of a few is enough to get a whole religious congregation or Order restricted from making use of Summorum Pontificum, this opens an easy way by which the opponents of the old Mass can eventually expel the TLM from all non-"Ecclesia Dei" institutes.

The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, on August 2, published the following statement -- already echoed on a number of other English-language blogs -- refuting some of the assertions that had been made by Vatican Insider. These assertions had been immediately seized upon by some parts of the Catholic blogosphere in order to justify the extraordinary intervention of the Holy See and the severe restrictions placed upon the Traditional Latin Mass in the FFI. 

We note that this statement affirms in greater detail some of points that we had initially raised. 

We also find it telling that the FFI chose to respond to Vatican Insider, but has left Sandro Magister's assertions un-refuted. Due to the explicit indication that Fr. Alessandro Apollonio FFI is the sole spokesman of the institute in this case, it is hard to escape the implication that there is need for great caution in accepting the public statements of some blogging FFI friars on this matter.

Last but not the least it is IMPORTANT to note that, according to the FFI, their internal norms regarding the use of the Traditional Latin Mass were found by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei to be in conformity with Universae Ecclesiae in 2012! 

All emphases are in the original.


On 02 August 2013, the website published an article entitled «Lombardi: "Sulla Messa in latino il Papa non contraddice Ratzinger"» (Lombardi: on the Latin Mass the Pope does not contradict Ratzinger), signed "editorial staff". [translator's note: since this Italian article was not published with an English translation, the translations of it are ours.] 

This article, after reporting the statements of Fr. Lombardi, who takes the same line we already had, contains calumnious statements against our Founder, Fr. Stefano M. Manelli, statements that we feel the duty to reject. In the same article there is also untrue or imprecise information to which we wish to draw attention.

1) In regard to the assignment of a Commissioner for our Institute of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, the anonymous journalist writes (our bold): 

"The decision of Pope Bergoglio—against which some traditionalist groups rose up, and which the religious instead immediately accepted—was motivated by the fact that the founder and general superior, Fr. Stefano Manelli, had imposed on all the communities of the Franciscans of the Immaculate the exclusive use of the extraordinary form of the liturgy, i.e., the old rite." 

The phrase we have highlighted in bold does not at all correspond to the truth.  

It is our duty to respond, with knowledge and in conscience, that in reality, Fr. Stefano not only has never imposed on all the F.I. communities the use—much less the exclusive use—of the Vetus Ordo, but he does not even want it to become the exclusive use, and he has personally given the example, celebrating everywhere according to the one and the other Ordo. 

It is well to know that before, during, and after the Apostolic Visit (July 2012–July 2013), as well as at present, the exclusive or prioritized use of the greater part of the F.F.I. Communities is the Novus Ordo (Holy Mass and Breviary). 

Fr. Stefano Manelli, as Minister General, together with his General Council, legitimately undertook an effort to promote the Vetus Ordo, respecting the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (2007), respecting the decisions of our General Chapter of 2008, and respecting the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae (2011). 

With a letter, Prot. 77/2011, dated 21 Nov 2011, our General Secretary, in the name of our General Council, sent all the F.F.I. Marian Houses (Friaries), some indicative (not preceptive!) norms regarding the use of the Vetus Ordo and the harmony between the Vetus Ordo and the Novus Ordo in our Communities and our Institute. 

After this letter, various communities peacefully continued to give pride of place to the Vetus or the Novus Ordo. So there was no imposition on the part of Fr. Manelli.

Some Friars, however, contested the aforesaid letter. Therefore, we consulted the Pontificial Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, which with a  R e s c r i p t   of 14 Apr 2012, Prot. 39/2011L, found conformity between this letter (Prot. 77/2011) and the "mens" of Holy Father Benedict XVI, expressed in the already-mentioned Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, n° 8a.

2) The anonymous journalist of Vatican Insider, in the same article, also writes (our bold):  

«It can be adopted as a proper (therefore exclusive) rite by the Religious Institutes and monastic communities that return to communion with Rome after having participated in the Levebvrian schism, and which for this reason are subject to the jurisdiction of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei». 

We respond: it is well to point out that in reality, in the spirit of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (n° 3) and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae (n° 8a), the Vetus Ordo as a "proper" rite (exclusive or not, but at least having priority), can be adopted also by Religious Communities not dependent upon the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" and not coming from the Lefebvrian "schism". Nevertheless, it was never our Founder's intention to arrive at an exclusive use. 

3) The anonymous journalist also writes (our bold):  

"The Franciscans of the Immaculate were founded instead after the Council, and furthermore a survey among the friars demonstrated that the majority of them desire to celebrate the ordinary rite". 

We respond: the fact that we were founded after the Council does not prohibit us F.I.'s from adopting or privileging the Vetus Ordo. Furthermore, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (published after the Council) is also addressed to the Institutes of Consecrated Life (without specification as to the date of foundation), and in addition, in no. 8a of the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, it is specified that the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum has the aim, first of all, of “offering to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved”. In that “all the faithful”, Religious are obviously also included.

If, by speaking of a "majority", the anonymous journalist refers to the datum cited in the article of Alessandro Speciale of 30 Jul 2013, «Francis approves appointment of commissioner to oversee Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate», namely: “in a survey carried out during the apostolic visit, the vast majority of the order’s members had said they did not agree that the Old Latin Rite should be the exclusive form used for celebrations of the mass, ‘particularly in the pastoral care programmes of Italian parishes and in the missions.’” [we have slightly altered Vatican Insider's translation], we consider it necessary to point out that this datum—if true—would not attest anything other than a unity of intention between the vast majority and our Founder on the question of exclusivity.  

In any case, if the "majority" of the friars [So far as we are aware, there has not been any survey involving all the members of the Institute. Therefore, survey-based affirmations as to the will of the majority of the friars appear to us to be completely baseless] prefers to celebrate according to the Novus Ordo (Holy Mass and Breviary), it could perfectly well continue to do so, as it has in the past. Furthermore, Fr. Manelli himself principally celebrates the Novus Ordo (Holy Mass and Breviary). 

While we remain obedient to the dispositions of the Holy See, it nevertheless remains our duty to make clarifications as necessary to avoid: 1) calumnies against our Founder, and 2) obstacles to the serene progress of the present period under a Commissioner. 

We take the occasion to specify that the only official spokesman of our Institute, especially in this very delicate situation, remains our Procurator General, Fr. Alessandro Apollonio.

In addition to the above statement, the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate also published two more follow-up responses to Vatican Insider.

Un'ulteriore risposta a Vatican Insider (Another response to Vatican Insider)

NOTA DELLE SUORE FRANCESCANE DELL'IMMACOLATA circa un articolo di Vatican Insider (NOTE OF THE FRANCISCAN SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE about an article by Vatican Insider)

Neither of these two additional responses have been translated into English. Nevertheless they contain the following, very important points:

The second statement, "Un'ulteriore risposta a Vatican Insider", is a response to Andrea Tornielli's article "Lefebvriani, la mossa di Francesco" (translated on the Vatican Insider English website with a different title, as "Francis appoints new secretary of “Ecclesia Dei”). Among other things, this statement informs the public that the visitation of the Franciscan Friars was ordered, not by Pope Benedict XVI, but by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life - Cardinal Braz de Aviz. 

It also points out the error of Torniell's criticism of the FFI for "extending the use of the ancient rite with an internal circular, without an argument put to the vote in the general chapter" when Tornielli himself had quoted Article 3 of Summorum Pontificum, which vested in the Major Superiors -- in this case, Fr. Stefano Manelli -- the authority to make this decision. Summorum Pontificum does not mention the need for a general chapter in this case.

Un'ulteriore risposta a Vatican Insider

In data 03 agosto 2013, il sito web ha pubblicato un articolo di Andrea Tornielli intitolato «Lefebvriani, la mossa di Francesco» , in cui, oltre a parlare di tale argomento, si pretende di spiegare «Ciò che davvero è successo con i Francescani dell'Immacolata». Sarebbe questo:

«Il problema all'interno dei Francescani dell'Immacolata è che i superiori avevano di fatto esteso l'uso dell'antico rito con una circolare interna, senza una discussione messa ai voti nel capitolo generale. L'articolo 3 del Motu proprio prescrive: «Le comunità degli Istituti di vita consacrata e delle Società di vita apostolica, di diritto sia pontificio sia diocesano, che nella celebrazione conventuale o “comunitaria” nei propri oratori desiderano celebrare la Santa Messa secondo l’edizione del Messale Romano promulgato nel 1962, possono farlo. Se una singola comunità o un intero Istituto o Società vuole compiere tali celebrazioni spesso o abitualmente o permanentemente, la cosa deve essere decisa dai Superiori maggiori a norma del diritto e secondo le leggi e gli statuti particolari».
Qui, il testo citato a prova già confuta l’affermazione dell’autore, perché non parla di capitolo generale, ma di Superiori maggiori. Essendo preposto all’intero Istituto, P. Stefano M. Manelli era Superiore maggiore (cf. CIC 620).

Ma se dobbiamo parlare di capitoli generali, si sappia che nel nostro caso, il capitolo generale del 2008 ha demandato la questione al Consiglio Generale dell’Istituto. Infatti, negli atti di tale capitolo, la parte riguardante il motu proprio conclude così: «Per la differenza del calendario liturgico, infine, si aspetta un nuovo documento del Papa. Riguardo le direttive di ordine interno, il Consiglio Generale redigerà un protocollo applicativo in funzione di questo documento pontificio» (p. 50). Infatti, si discuteva fra noi a quel tempo se sarebbe stato possibile seguire un calendario differente (quello della forma ordinaria) nella Messa antica. Tale possibilità è stata definitivamente esclusa dal n. 24 dell’Istruzione Universae Ecclesiae, resa pubblica il 13-05-2011. In funzione di questo documento, il Consiglio Generale pubblicò la lettera Prot. 77/2011, datata 21-11-2011, di cui parla l’ultima nostra nota ufficiale.

Inoltre, il medesimo articolo di Tornielli attribuisce la decisione di inviare una visita apostolica a Benedetto XVI. Ciò non è esatto: fu invece una decisione della Congregazione per gli Istituti di Vita Consacrata e le Società di Vita Apostolica.
The female branch, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, issued its own statement, which gives the following information about the use of the Vetus Ordo in their communities:

- The sisters "generally" manifest a predilection for the Vetus Ordo but in their chapels not only are both the Novus Ordo and Vetus Ordo used, in some cases only the former is celebrated

- The General Chapter in May 2012 was in favor of the co-existence of both forms, ordinary and extraordinary, for liturgical celebrations.

-  Exclusive use of the Vetus Ordo was proposed only for the contemplative branch of the Institute.

-  At present, in many parts of the world such as the Philippines and Australia, the sisters have not yet received the Roman Breviary; and all over the world, those entering the institute begin with the Liturgy of the Hours in the local languages.


Parlare di scelta esclusiva del rito antico, come è stato fatto nell’articolo di Alessandro Speciale del 30 luglio 2013, è in contrasto sia con le dichiarazioni ufficiali dell’Istituto delle Suore Francescane dell’Immacolata sia con la verità dei fatti. Quanto alle prime, nessuna posizione ufficiale è stata presa in questo senso dalle religiose e, anzi, il recente Capitolo generale del maggio 2012 non ha optato per l’esclusività della forma straordinaria, ma per la coesistenza di entrambe le forme, ordinaria e straordinaria, delle celebrazioni liturgiche. Un orientamento per l’uso permanente dell’Usus antiquior è stato proposto per il solo ramo contemplativo dell’Istituto. Nella pratica, poi, come è ben noto, quantunque le suore generalmente manifestino una predilezione per il Vetus Ordo, nelle loro cappelle la Santa Messa viene celebrata in entrambe le forme, in alcuni casi nella sola forma ordinaria. Quanto al breviario, è ancora in atto una fase sperimentale, a seguito delle richieste fatte dalle varie comunità sparse nei cinque continenti, per verificare la convenienza dell’officiatura in rito antico. Nelle isole Filippine e in Australia, per circa un centinaio di religiose, non è ancora giunto il “breviario tridentino”, nonostante i solleciti delle comunità ivi presenti. Va aggiunto, infine, che per le giovani che iniziano il loro cammino di formazione nell’Istituto, in tutti i continenti, la Liturgia delle Ore si officia nelle lingue locali. 

Si spera, pertanto, che non si diffondano più ulteriori informazioni che possano suscitare confusione e disorientamento nei confronti dell’Istituto e della Chiesa.

Le Suore Francescane dell'Immacolata

In parting, we also take note of the following declaration, also on the main page of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate's international page. 

Declaration about some recent facts 

Having learned of the online petition organized by the website of the Association "Corrispondenza Romana" in order to gather signatures to be presented to the Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life against the Decree of 11 July 2013 (Prot. 52741/2012), after having already expressed its position several times and after having released the official communication of its Father Founder, the Religious Institute of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate REAFFIRMS its obedience to the dispositions of the Holy Father, DECLARES that it will have NOTHING TO DO with the initiative of the aforesaid website or any like initiative, past or future, REJECTS any attempt to use a matter internal to the Institute to attack the Pope and the Catholic Hierarchy, and APPEALS TO ALL to maintain SILENCE, RESPECT AND PRAYER regarding the matter, in order to allow the competent authorities to carry out their task in peace for the good of the Church and of the Institute. 

In Corde Matris

Fr. Rosario M. Sammarco, fi
(sic) of the Institutional Website of the Franciscans Friars of the Immaculate

UPDATE: Soon after this text was posted, La Stampa's A. Tornielli released an interview granted by the Procurator of the Friars, Fr. Alessandro Apollonio, explaining further details on how a minority of dissenters humiliated their founder and subverted the truth in order to convince Rome to impose the recent intervention. 
Why did the Vatican decide to send an apostolic visitor to your Institute?
“Because a few of the friars who don’t agree with the founding Father and Minister general’s style asked for it. They also disagree with his eagerness to promote the Vetus Ordo within the Institute, alongside the Novus Ordo, in accordance with the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae.”

To what extent did the issue of the use of the old missal influence the decision to send an apostolic visitor?
“It had a big influence on the decision because the group of friars I mentioned before accused the founding Father of imposing the Vetus Ordo on the whole Institute. Although the accusation is completely unfounded, people believed it and our attempts to prove it was false proved futile. This false accusation has spread like an oil slick, with various newspapers and news agencies passing it on. This has seriously harmed the good name of the Institute’s founding Father.”

Traditionalist blogs and websites have reacted to this news - and to the decision that prior authorisation will have to be obtained before the Institute can celebrate Mass according to the Old Rite - by saying that these decisions disavow Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio. Do you agree with this interpretation? What can you say about these decisions?
“Fr. Lombardi has clearly stated that the decisions taken regarding our Institute are not a disavowal of the Motu Proprio. However, we are still waiting for an authentic interpretation of the Holy See’s liturgical provisions for our Institute. For example, it is still unclear who exactly the “competent authorities” who will give the aforementioned authorization, are. Will it be the commissioner, the Congregation for Religious, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the local ordinary, one of these or all of these? We hope this is just a temporary disciplinary provision and that we will soon be given authorisation to celebrate according to the Vetus Ordo also, as we have always done. Without all the current restrictions which – unless a better reason can be given – deprive us of the universal right granted to us in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae.”

Have any members of your Institute played a role in spreading the above interpretation?

When you have asked for clarifications regarding some of our articles, you have always stressed that you did not only use the old missal and that all decisions were taken bearing in mind the provisions of the Motu Proprio. Is it true that before the apostolic visit, the “Ecclesia Dei” commission had cautioned the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate to be prudent in their use of the old missal?
“Yes, we tried to be as prudent and discreet as possible in exercising our special right which gives the General Chapter in session “supreme authority in the Institute”, in accordance with the Constitutions (§ 81). The last General Chapter held in 2008, established that the General Council (that is, Fr. Stefano M. Manelli and his five advisors) was to draft a protocol for the Vetus Ordo to be introduced in our communities. This was done in the form of a letter sent on 21 November 2011. The Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” considered this letter carefully, taking account Benedict XVI’s thinking, but this official judgement was not taken into consideration during the developments in our case. We do not understand why and are greatly saddened by this. We entrust our cause to Our Lady Queen of the Seraphic Order.”