Rorate Caeli

Parisian traditionalists gather to question Cardinal Roche; Roche cancels, and then French bishops try to escape through the back door

At “L’homme nouveau”, Maitena Urbistondoy writes about the rather exciting goings-on in Paris on May 11, 2023. Translated for Rorate.—PAK

This Thursday, May 11, the Extraordinary National Days of the National Service for Liturgical and Sacramental Pastoral Care (SNPLS) come to a close in Paris. Cardinal Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, accompanied by Archbishop Guy de Kérimel of Toulouse, was to preside over the two days of conferences intended for bishops, priests and also lay people involved in their dioceses on liturgical issues. (See schedule here.)

When Cardinal Roche’s visit to France was announced, the Union Lex Orandi group sent a letter to the Apostolic Nunciature of France last week requesting a meeting with his Eminence. On February 21, Cardinal Roche obtained a rescript from the Pope, notably following the resistance from some American bishops, on the conditions of application of the motu proprio Tradionis Custodes, reinforcing the hard line the cardinal desired.

The Union Lex Orandi, which brings together several associations working for the free use of the traditional liturgical books, hoped to be able to present their current needs to the Prelate. Their requests remain identical to those presented last February during their meeting with Bishop Jordy, vice-president of the French Bishops’ Conference, and Bishop Lebrun, member of the permanent council: free access to all the sacraments in the traditional form, teaching of the catechism within their communities, and the apostolate of priests whose right to celebrate according to the old rite is unquestioned. On Tuesday, May 9, the organizers of the Extraordinary National Days warned the Lex Orandi Union that the cardinal would not be present in Paris after all, without having more information about the reasons for his absence. The possibility of a meeting was therefore cancelled...

But on Wednesday, May 9, a Mass was celebrated at the end of the first day of the SNPLS gathering in the presence of Monsignor Viola, Secretary of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Bishop Kerimel was also present as president of the Council for Liturgy and Sacramental Ministry. (The latter is also the former bishop of the diocese of Grenoble, where he had announced a drastic limitation of the traditional Mass in September 2021. For several weeks, these declarations had raised a wave of indignation and protests among the faithful.)

In Paris, on Wednesday, May 10, around 7:00 p.m., faithful attached to the traditional liturgy gathered on the square in front of the church of Saint-Honoré d’Eylau, waiting for the end of the Mass and hoping to meet with the SNPLS. About fifteen people unfurled a small banner of fabric with a hand-painted message: “No to the Liturgical War.” Some also carried small cards that read, “Freedom for the Traditional Mass.” Still others handed out tracts justifying their approach: “We like to live peacefully with the traditional liturgy in our parishes.”

Marie distributes the leaflets to the first faithful to leave the church “to remind them that the traditional liturgy has its place in the Church.” She is not really used to this kind of approach, but this is the second time she has “demonstrated” for these reasons because “our opponents want to deny our existence, they ignore us, so I came to remind our bishops that we are still here.” Gaëtan, a young layman of 32, for his part, returned to the faith by discovering the beauty of the traditional liturgy. For him, these national days of the SNPLS are an opportunity “to ask the bishops and the Pope to stop trying to kill the Mass.”

At the end of the Mass, the doors of the church overlooking the square were finally closed and the participants of the liturgical days present at the Mass were invited to leave by the back door to avoid the banner and demonstrators. The demonstrators then packed up their material and went around the building where they were finally able to question some participants.

The reactions were diverse. Some priests, pressed for time, invited them to come back the next day, but the majority of the participants avoided making a statement. Others reacted more strongly, like a priest of the diocese of Mende who said he was exasperated because, according to him, “there was a very learned liturgical reform at the time of the Council that must be accepted.” Guillaume, a young layman attached to the traditional Mass, asked another priest for a blessing in lieu of a discussion—a blessing which the latter refused.

Meanwhile, the police had been warned of a “demonstration.” They patrolled around the church without really understanding what they had to interrupt. After several rounds of the building, where the police observed Catholic faithful peacefully discussing liturgical issues, they left empty-handed...

In the end, the demonstrators did not obtain the meeting they had hoped for with the Secretary of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Archbishop Viola, but the rally had the benefit of reminding the participants in these days dedicated to the liturgy of the perseverance of some of the faithful in defending the traditional liturgy.

Inside information from a participant, conveyed to me: “This two day meeting about ‘Desidero desideravi’ and the new liturgy was attended mainly by old people from every French diocese—fewer than 100 of them. Twelve French bishops tried to escape by a back door in order not to meet the trads. The parish had called the police—frightened of us! Roche surely feared not to be welcomed in Paris, and he would have been right.”