Rorate Caeli

400th Anniversary of the Rituale Romanum
Apostolic Constitution Apostolicæ Sedi, of June 17, 1614

Paul V Borghese, the great pontiff whose name and surname lord over the façade of the Vatican Basilica and Saint Peter's Square, promulgated at the Liberian Basilica, exactly  400 years ago, on June 17, 1614, the last of the great books that form the basic liturgical texts of our Roman Rite.

In chronological order of publication, they are the following:

1568 - July 9 : Breviarum Romanum [Saint Pius V, Apostolic Constitution "Quod a Nobis]

1570 - July 14 : Missale Romanum [Saint Pius V, Apostolic Constitution "Quo primum tempore"]

1596 - February 10 : Pontificale Romanum [Clement VIII, Apostolic Constitution "Ex quo in Ecclesia Dei"]

1600 - July 14 : Cæremoniale Episcoporum [Clement VIII, Apostolic Constitution "Cum novissime"]

1614 - June 17 : Rituale Romanum [Paul V, Apostolic Constitution "Apostolicae Sedi"]

In all cases, let us remember that these were revised (in the case of most) or new books, as demanded by the Fathers of the Council of Trent, but their content was not new - they should rather be considered compilations of what the best liturgical experts of the time considered the purest and most venerable texts of the Rite. Their contents were in most cases indistinguishable from the best works preceding the great Council: there was never any question of mere invention, or pseudo-archaeological repristination, much less ideological considerations, other than the need to preserve, by authentic repristination, the utmost orthodoxy of the formulas following a century of religious upheaval in Europe.

The Ritual itself is the ultimate compilation: its purpose was to put together in a single volume all the Sacramental orders and other relevant blessings and services celebrated by a priest that are not included in the official texts present in the Missal or the Breviary - though it does include several also published there, being as it is the essential convenient reference book for priests. It is for that reason that it looks less precise than the other liturgical volumes, but that is an essential aspect of its variegated nature. And, indeed, it is for that reason that all priests used to have at least a miniature version of it almost always at hand - and traditional priests still do: one never knows when the Rituale will be needed.

For a final liturgical law note, remember that the entire traditional Roman Ritual, in its last editio typica (1952), as all liturgical books of the Roman Rite in place in 1962, is fully in force for use by all priests of the Latin Church (cf. Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum and its application Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, n. 35: "The use of the Pontificale Romanum, the Rituale Romanum, as well as the Cæremoniale Episcoporum in effect in 1962, is permitted, in keeping with n. 28 of this Instruction, and always respecting n. 31 of the same Instruction.") This must always remain the case: as Benedict XVI taught, truly ad perpetuam rei memoriam..., "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful" - "it behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place."


"Apostolicæ Sedi"
on the Edition of the Roman Ritual

ad perpetuam rei memoriam

Called by divine munificence, and not through any personal merit, to occupy the Apostolic See, we deem it our duty to watch with full earnestness over all that concerns the decorum of God's house. And such constant vigilance on our part prompts us to take suitable measures so that, as the Apostle admonishes, everything in divine worship may function decently and orderly. Particularly is this true in regard to the administration of the sacraments of the Church of God; here especially our office obliges us to provide that a religious observance be given those rites and ceremonies established by apostolic tradition and the decrees of the fathers. 

Pope Pius V, our saintly predecessor, fully conscious of his obligation which is now ours, labored with pastoral indefatigability to publish first the Roman Breviary, then the Roman Missal--both having been worked out with much labor and zealous care--so that there might be, God willing, a uniform manner of chanting and praying the Church's liturgy. He did this not only to restore careful observance of the sacred rites in celebrating the Holy Sacrifice and chanting the Divine Office, but also for the purpose of promoting the bond of Catholic unity in faith and in government, under the visible authority of the Roman Pontiff, the successor of St. Peter. 

With similar wisdom our predecessor of blessed memory, Clement VIII, followed in the footsteps of Pius V. He not only gave to the bishops and lesser prelates of the Church the carefully revised Pontifical; but he also made a systematic compilation of many other ceremonies wont to be used in cathedrals and lesser churches, embodied in the Ceremonial which he promulgated. With all this accomplished there remained to be published, by authority of the Holy See, a volume of the Ritual which would contain the genuine and sacred rites of the Catholic Church, those which must be observed by shepherds of souls in the administration of the sacraments and in other ecclesiastical functions. 

Amidst the numerous existing rituals it would rank as the official and authorized one, by whose standard the officiants could fulfill their priestly office unhesitatingly, and with uniformity and precision. This matter had been urged a long time ago. But since the work of the General Councils (whose acts by God's help have been published both in the Greek and Latin tongues) is at present hindered, we considered it our obligation to prosecute the business in right good earnest. 

In order that the task proceed correctly and orderly as it should, we assigned it to certain of our venerable brethren among the cardinals, outstanding for their piety, learning, and sagacity. Aided by the counsel of scholars and through comparison with ancient as well as other available rituals--in particular that erudite work of Julius Antonius of blessed memory, Cardinal with title of St. Severina, a man of singular piety, zeal, and learning--the commission of cardinals has succeeded in compiling a ritual of desired brevity, after mature deliberation and with the help of God. 

Now as we see lying before us this well-arranged assortment of received and approved rites of the Catholic Church, we deem it fitting that it be published for the universal utility of God's Church, under the title of "Roman Ritual." Therefore, we exhort in the Lord the venerable brothers patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, and their vicars, beloved sons of ours, as well as abbots, all pastors wherever they labor, and all others concerned, sons of the Roman Church, that in future they use during the sacred functions this Ritual, made official by the authority of the same Church, mother and mistress of all; and that in a matter so important as this they observe inviolately whatever the Catholic Church with her ancient and approved traditions has laid down.

Given at Rome, at St. Mary Major, under the fisherman's seal, on June 17, 1614, in the tenth year of Our Pontificate.


[Thanks to Schola Sainte-Cécile for the anniversary reminder; Sancta Missa for the translation above, slightly edited.]