The annual Old Rite confirmations that have taken place for nearly 20 years at St James’ Spanish Place have been cancelled.
In a statement on its website, the Latin Mass Society says it “regrets to report” that Cardinal Vincent Nichols has made the decision, communicated to the society by letter, that the sacrament of confirmation is not to be celebrated according to the 1962 liturgical books in the Archdiocese of Westminster.
Another planned celebration of this sacrament, by Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, is also understood to have been cancelled.
Since 2004, 593 candidates have been confirmed at Spanish Place. They were confirmed by an auxiliary bishop of Westminster and on one occasion, by Cardinal Raymond Burke.
The cancellations come after the recent document authored by Archbishop Arthur Roche, the Vatican’s head of liturgy, on issues around the Tridentine Mass. Roche’s Responsa was a follow-up document to Pope Francis’ controversial letter Traditionis Custodes.
Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society, said: “The Archdiocese of Westminster has provided an auxiliary bishop to confer Old Rite confirmation annually since 2004; at these services 593 people have been confirmed.
“In recent years bishops in several other English dioceses have also organised traditional confirmations in other parts of the country. These celebrations have been joyful occasions, attended by many children and young adults, their families, sponsors, and friends. They have been clear expressions of the importance the society’s supporters attach to their link with their bishops, and our bishops’ pastoral concern for us. They have enormously strengthened the sense of unity in the Church: both our sense of belonging, and, I believe, the bishops’ own sense that we are indeed sheep of their flock.
“The cessation of these celebrations implies the loss of much that the Bishops of England and Wales have sought, and achieved, in establishing a serene co-existence between the new and old liturgical forms. Confirmation is above all a sacrament for young people and converts. It will cut off many from accessing it in a form ‘particularly suited to them’ (as Pope Benedict expressed it). Others will be driven to seek it outside the structures of the Church.”
“We hope that the bishops of England and Wales come to reconsider their decision, and allow once more the ancient Roman liturgy in all its manifestations to be part of the legitimate diversity of liturgical forms we have in this country.”
The Archdiocese of Westminster told The Tablet: “This is a matter for the universal Church, and not a decision that has been taken locally in any one diocese. The Responsa ad Dubia from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments make it clear that the celebration of confirmation according to the pre-Vatican forms is no longer permitted throughout the Church. The response to the second question after the introduction indicates that all use of the pre-Conciliar Pontificale Romanum is not permitted. There isn’t any room for discretion in making local decisions on this matter.”