29 July 2021, The Tablet

Are the bishops so embarrassed by the sheer numbers attending Mass?

Are the bishops so embarrassed by the sheer numbers attending Mass?

Pope Francis isn’t likely to spend time brooding over his papal titles – it’s not his style – but one of them is worth reflecting on. He’s meant to be a Pontifex, a bridge builder. It’s not quite what comes to mind in connection with his latest motu proprio, overturning the move by his predecessor, Benedict, in 2007, to allow for celebrations of Mass in the Old Rite wherever a group of the faithful want it. Instead, he’s ruled that any priest who wants to do so must ask his bishop for permission to continue, and in the case of priests ordained after this ruling, they must formally request their bishop, who must in turn consult the Vatican.

As you’d expect, sensible bishops have indicated that they will not withdraw permission – Cardinal Vincent Nichols has told priests in the Westminster diocese that he’s fine about it, though he makes it clear that those celebrating and attending must accept the authority of the Pope and of the Second Vatican Council. But some bishops are already taking a less relaxed approach.

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