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The faithful at Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica The faithful at Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica  (Vatican Media)

Gambetti: Masses at St. Peter's attentive to needs of the faithful

The Cardinal Archpriest of Saint Peter's Basilica outlines the recent norms on morning celebrations in the Vatican Basilica, recalling that liturgical services are not private functions and that it is more than appropriate for priests to concelebrate. He also clarifies exceptions and the need to accommodate legitimate requests from priests and groups of faithful, both for the Rite in its ordinary and extraordinary forms.

By Vatican News

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, Archpriest of Saint Peter's Basilica, has written an informative note that helps understand the latest dispositions regarding morning Masses celebrated in the Vatican Basilica. He looks at points in the communiqué issued by the Secretariat of State on March 12 to ensure that celebrations "take place in an atmosphere of recollection and liturgical decorum”.

Liturgical celebrations and attention to the legitimate requests of the faithful

The new norms, Cardinal Gambetti explains, are inspired by two principles: "to order the celebrations from the point of view of their timing and their quality" and "to welcome and integrate particular and legitimate desires of the faithful, as far as possible." According to these provisions, "between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. priests may concelebrate at one of the scheduled Masses in the established locations." At the same time, "exceptions are admitted with regard to the places of celebration - on the occasion of the memory of a Saint whose remains are kept in the Basilica - and celebrations taking place at the same time with groups of pilgrims or in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite". 

Recalling Tradition: liturgical services are not private functions

The organization of the morning celebrations envisaged by the communiqué of the Secretariat of State offers an opportunity to recall the meaning and value of the Eucharistic concelebration which, as the Vatican II Council Fathers recalled is part of the Church’s tradition. As stated in Sacrosanctum Concilium, "Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the ‘sacrament of unity,’ namely, the holy people united and ordered under their bishops". Therefore, the "community celebration characterized by the presence and active participation of the faithful" is to be preferred "to the individual and almost private celebration", although "any Mass always has a public and social nature, and for the administration of the sacraments" (SC 26-27). It it is understood that the assembly gathered for the Eucharist fully manifests the mystery of the Church: "it is the whole community, the Body of Christ united to its Head, that celebrates".

For priests it is more than appropriate to concelebrate

As a result, the note explains that when possible, it is more than appropriate for priests to concelebrate, given the fact that there is a regular alternation of presidency for the concelebrations that ordinarily take place in Saint Peter's Basilica. The same is also true for individual faithful and groups, invited to participate at the same Mass so that it may be an expression of fraternity and not of particularisms that do not reflect the sense of ecclesial communion manifested by the Eucharistic celebration. "Without in any way detracting from the legitimacy of the celebration of Mass by individual priests even when the faithful cannot participate", it is important to recognize the diriment character of the norm that prohibits celebrating "in an individual way [...] at the same time in which in the same church or oratory the concelebration is held" (cf. CIC 902).

Exceptions and details regarding Saint Peter's Basilica

The note recalls the exceptions contemplated by the Magisterium in cases where the good of the faithful suggests otherwise. In the particular case of Masses at St. Peter's, for example, "the importance of understanding the language of the liturgy should not be underestimated" for groups of pilgrims who come from all over the world. It should also be noted that "the size of Saint Peter's Basilica and its architecture make it possible to meet the different needs of those who wish to celebrate the Eucharist as a group without overlapping with the concelebration taking place in the main liturgical areas". Also, "in the time slot between 7 and 9 am the number of faithful in attendance in the Basilica is not that many".

Provisions for the morning slot

For these reasons, Cardinal Gambetti has already given dispositions "so that requests to celebrate in the 7 to 9 am time slot by groups with special and legitimate needs may be granted. Requests for individual celebrations may also be considered on a case-by-case basis, with the principle that everything should take place in an atmosphere of recollection and decorum, and with vigilance so that what is exceptional does not become ordinary, distorting the intentions and the sense of the Magisterium.”

Doing everything possible to accomodate request for Rite in extraordinary form

In addition, "for celebrations with the Missale Romanum of 1962, everything possible must be done to fulfill the desire of the faithful and priests as provided by the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum." "In this way," Cardinal Gambetti concludes, "I am confident that the journey undertaken can foster for every priest and every member of the faithful the possibility of experiencing celebrations in Saint Peter's in a way that is increasingly ordered to the good, the beautiful and the true.

22 June 2021, 14:00