Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Now its our turn

After recent petitions from people in public life in Germany, Italy, Poland and France, there appeared today one from the UK organised by Una Voce. Let`s hope it has as much success as the petition of 1971.
Here it is:

Catholics in the U.K. Appeal to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in Support of the Traditional Latin Mass

There has been much speculation in the media in recent months about the expectation from Rome of a document that will grant greater freedom for the celebration of the traditional (‘Tridentine’) Roman rite of Mass. There have been some highly critical comments from certain quarters, especially from the French and German bishops, who do not agree with the prospect of loosening the very tight restrictions imposed by most bishops around the world. It is a fact, for whatever reason, that these bishops oppose greater freedom for the celebration of the traditional Mass and have no interest in the opinions of the laity or even of many of their own priests who long to celebrate this ancient rite; a rite that has never been abolished and is still valid.
In an effort to counter the negative and uninformed attitudes of the bishops a number of public manifestos have been published by lay people in France, Italy, Poland, Germany, and including one from English-speaking people from around the world. A number of people in the UK wish to publicly declare their support for Pope Benedict XVI and his intention to grant greater freedom for the celebration of the ancient classical Roman rite of Mass.

Leo Darroch – Secretary, Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce.

In 1971 many leading British and international figures, among whose number were Yehudi Menuhin, Agatha Christie, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Nancy Mitford, Graham Greene, Joan Sutherland, and Ralph Richardson, presented a petition to His Holiness Pope Paul VI asking for the survival of the traditional Roman Catholic Mass on the grounds that it would be a serious loss to western culture. The then Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Heenan himself appealed to Pope Paul for the continued celebration of the traditional Mass. The full text of this appeal in 1971 was:
"If some senseless decree were to order the total or partial destruction of basilicas or cathedrals, then obviously it would be the educated - whatever their personal beliefs - who would rise up in horror to oppose such a possibility. Now the fact is that basilicas and cathedrals were built so as to celebrate a rite which, until a few months ago, constituted a living tradition. We are referring to the Roman Catholic Mass. Yet, according to the latest information in Rome, there is a plan to obliterate that Mass by the end of the current year. One of the axioms of contemporary publicity, religious as well as secular, is that modern man in general, and intellectuals in particular, have become intolerant of all forms of tradition and are anxious to suppress them and put something else in their place. But, like many other affirmations of our publicity machines, this axiom is false. Today, as in times gone by, educated people are in the vanguard where recognition of the value of tradition in concerned, and are the first to raise the alarm when it is threatened. We are not at this moment considering the religious or spiritual experience of millions of individuals. The rite in question, in its magnificent Latin text, has also inspired a host of priceless achievements in the arts - not only mystical works, but works by poets, philosophers, musicians, architects, painters and sculptors in all countries and epochs. Thus, it belongs to universal culture as well as to churchmen and formal Christians. In the materialistic and technocratic civilisation that is increasingly threatening the life of mind and spirit in its original creative expression - the word - it seems particularly inhuman to deprive man of word-forms in one of their most grandiose manifestations. The signatories of this appeal, which is entirely ecumenical and non-political, have been drawn from every branch of modern culture in Europe and elsewhere. They wish to call to the attention of the Holy See, the appalling responsibility it would incur in the history of the human spirit were it to refuse to allow the Traditional Mass to survive, even though this survival took place side by side with other liturgical reforms."
This appeal in 1971 came at a crucial time in the history of civilisation when the future of the traditional Latin “Tridentine” Mass was in jeopardy. Pope Paul VI graciously acknowledged this appeal and the traditional Mass was saved, at least in England and Wales. Since this momentous appeal in 1971 the traditional Latin Mass has prospered once again among the faithful worldwide and is now celebrated in almost every country in the world. Now, in 2007, there is great hope and expectation that this treasure of civilisation will be freed from its current restrictions. We, the signatories of this petition, wish to associate ourselves to the sentiments expressed in the petition of 1971 which, perhaps, are even more valid today, and appeal to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 to allow the free celebration of the traditional Roman rite of Mass, the Mass of Ages, the Mass of Antiquity, on the altars of the Church.
Rt. Hon. Michael Ancram, QC MP.
Miss Madeleine Beard, M.Litt. (Cantab).
Dr. Mary Berry CBE, Founder of the Schola Gregoriana in Cambridge.
James Bogle, TD, MA, ACIarb, Barrister, Chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain.
Count Neri Capponi, Judge of the Tuscan Ecclesiastical Matrimonial Court.
Fr. Antony F.M. Conlon, Chaplain to the Latin Mass Society.
Julian Chadwick, Chairman – The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.
Rev. Fr. Ronald Creighton-Jobe, The Oratory, London.
Fra’ Fredrik Crichton-Stuart, Chairman CIEL UK.
Leo Darroch, Secretary – International Federation Una Voce.
Adrian Davies, Barrister.R.P. Davis, B.Phil., M.A., D.Phil (Oxon), retired senior lecturer in Ancient History, Queen’s University of Belfast; translator/commentator on the Liber Pontificalis of the Roman Church.
John Eidinow, Bodley Fellow and Dean, Merton College, Oxford.
Jonathan Evans MEP, Vice Chairman Catholic Union of Great Britain.
Fra’ Matthew Festing, OBE, TD, DL. Grand Prior of England – Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta.
The Right Honourable Lord Gill, Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland.
Dr. Sheridan Gilley, Emeritus Reader, University of Durham.
Dr. Christopher Gillibrand, MA (Oxon).
The Rt. Hon. John Gummer MP
Rev. Dr. Laurence Paul Hemming, Heythrop College, University of London.
Stephen Hough, Concert Pianist and Composer.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director, Aid to the Church in Need UK
Edward Leigh MP, Vice President of the Catholic Union of Great Britian
Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein, President of the British Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. KCSG.
James MacMillan, CBE, Composer and Conductor.
Anthony McCarthy, Research Fellow, Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics.
Mrs. Daphne McLeod, Chairman – Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.
Anthony Ozimic, MA (bioethics).
Dr. Susan Frank Parsons, President, Society for the Study of Christian Ethics (UK) and Co-Founder of the Society of St. Catherine of Siena.
Dr. Catherine Pickstock, Lecturer in Philosophy and Religion; Fellow – Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
Dr. Thomas Pink, Reader in Philosophy and Director of Philosophical Studies, Kings College, London.
Piers Paul Read, Novelist and Playwright; Vice-President of the Catholic Writers’ Guild of England and Wales.
The Rev’d. Dr. Alcuin Reid, Liturgical Scholar and Author.
Nicholas Richardson, Warden of Greyfriars Hall, Oxford.
Prof. Jonathan Riley-Smith, retired Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Cambridge University.
Fr. John Saward, Lisieux Senior Research Fellow in Theology, Greyfriars, Oxford University.
Dr. Joseph Shaw. Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy, St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford University.
Damien Thompson, Editor-in-Chief, The Catholic Herald.

Good News

As reported on the BBC news website, the ugly Westgate house in Newcastle has been completely demolished after blighting the city for 35 years. It is to be replaced with new buildings which `would fit in with the architecture of the area`. Who knows where this might end? Is this a trend that will spread to the ecclesiastical sphere? I`m sure readers will have their own favourite horror stories of 19th century churches whose interiors have been rendered ridiculous by the insertion of say a huge bare white marble altar or some such item.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Bad News

There is an interview in today`s Sunday Telegraph with Fr Foster, the papal Latinist. In the course of this he reflects on the new indult. :

He (Fr Foster) said reports that Pope Benedict will reintroduce the Tridentine Mass, which dates from 1570 and is largely conducted in Latin, were wrong – not least because of the Pope's desire to avoid more controversies. A speech last year offended Muslims and more recently he gave initial support to a Polish archbishop who was eventually forced to resign, after admitting that he had collaborated with the communist-era secret police.
"He is not going to do it," Fr Foster said. "He had trouble with Regensberg, and then trouble in Warsaw, and if he does this, all hell will break loose." In any case, he added: "It is a useless mass and the whole mentality is stupid. The idea of it is that things were better in the old days. It makes the Vatican look medieval."

This is the first time I`ve seen anyone suggest it`s not going to happen. Not sure what Fr Foster means by saying it`s `a useless Mass`: a strange expression to use.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Philippines

My brother sent me this picture a few days ago, asking me if I had ever had this many people turn up for a dawn Mass! The only dawn Masses I have had recently were during the summer when I had a 7am Tridentine Mass ( `private` of course given episcopal restrictions and continuing lack of the new indult) which attracted at most 4 people. This is a picture of the Mass last week in Cebu for the feast of the Santo Nino ( the infant Jesus) which attracted a congregation of 700,000. I was fortunate a few years ago to spend time in Cebu when I went to baptise my nephew, James. I found the Philippines to be an absolutely fascinating country. While I enjoyed being in a Catholic country, I was there for two Sundays but on neither of them was I at Mass in a church. The first weekend I concelebrated at a Mass in the open air community centre of the area in which my brother was living while he was working there. The main celebrant was one of the staff from the local seminary: his sermon appeared to be the continuation of a series which was deconstructing the Gospel of Mark and offering an introduction to the joys of form criticism. The next Sunday, Mass was in a rather exclusive sports club where a local Monsignor was the celebrant. He was immaculate in his white cassock and preached about resisting the temptation to fall into the culture of corruption which permeates so much of public life there. He also said that while the Philippines is proud to be Asia`s only Catholic nation, in fact only 20% attend Mass regularly. I wondered whether the somewhat sterile masses I had the opportunity to attend may have had something to do with this given the evidence of popular devotion everywhere you looked. A sad experience was a visit to the island of Bohol which has some of the finest Spanish 17th century Spanish churches in a bad state of decay. One I remember best had a glorious reredos with niches for saints in the Spanish style but which had recently lost a number of the original statues through theft. The attached museum had a display of ancient decaying vestments, church silver and missals.
We have a growing number of Philippino families here in the Forest and I sometimes wonder what they make of our rather pared-down version of Catholicism, with its bare churches, compared to the flamboyance of the devotional life back home.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Back from holiday

I`m sorry this blog has been rather quiet of late but I`ve been away on holiday recovering from the Christmas season. I spent a week in Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife with Fr Charles Briggs (seen here on the harbour wall) of Chislehurst. Neither of us had ever been there before but I heard the weather can be very good even in January and I reckoned that if the Spanish had been there since the fifteenth century there must be some churches and buildings worth a look. Another attraction is the annual musical festival in Santa Cruz in the new and exciting auditorium which a friend had been to last year but in the event it proved too difficult to get there.
Apart from food and sun there were indeed some ecclesiastical treats. Last Saturday we went to the Mt Teide national park. Any readers who are unaware of the landscape (as I was) of this area are missing something quite extraordinary. I`m sure it`s a geologist`s dream. Suffice to say that the landscape is sufficiently striking for it to have been used in the films `Planet of the Apes` and `Star Wars`. I later discovered that we were very close to an even more extraordinary happening as the episcopal vicar for Newcastle, Fr Jim O`Keefe, was on holiday at the same time and we missed him by a day at Mt Teide!

On the way back down from Mt Teide we took a circular route which took us to the town of Garachico. This was a great find. The town itself had a beautiful square with a large church of St Anne on one side and a former Franciscan house and church on the other. The church of St Anne (seen here) appeared to be closed but it did advertise a museum of sacred art. We went in and found large numbers of seventeenth and eighteenth century high Mass sets (strangely referred to as `triplets`) on display as well as other liturgical items such as missals and chalices. We were then let into the church which instead of the usual Spanish style of a large reredos with statues of saints had a retro choir, behind the high altar. We saw the same arrangement later in the main church on Orotava.

At Mass on Sunday in the main church at Puerto de la Cruz, the main celebrant was a visiting priest from the Birmingham diocese. He endeared himself when after the organ had intoned the chorus of the Battle Hymn of the Republic as a substitue for the Gloria, he then led us in reciting the Gloria: I`ve often wanted to do that in similar situations such as after the `Peruvian Gloria`. The sermon, on the marriage feast of Cana, was excellent. The theme was `Do whatever He tells you` and Father spoke of how we should give our whole lives to Christ from waking to sleeping and that our goal should be to do His will. It was so well-presented, coherent, interesting and engaging that Fr Briggs suspected he was an Anglican convert. On getting home we found Fr Briggs was correct!

I got back to find that nothing much had happened in the universal Church.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Fight with a Priest

It goes to show that things can always get worse in the parish! Spotted on the Cafeteria is Closed blog

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Last night at the clergy dinner one priest assured me that the liturgy office for England and Wales had said that in using the 1962 missal one follows the calendar so it was right to celebrate the Epiphany on the 6th as we did this morning with a Missa Cantata. I was somewhat surprised by this but even if it had been said otherwise there would be nothing to stop a votive Mass of the Epiphany this morning. I`m glad to see I was in good company: there was a 1962 Solemn High Mass of the Epiphany at the Birmingham Oratory this morning. Apparently and surprisingly, this was the first time that such a Mass had been celebrated in the Oratory church since the changes. There is an account on the lacrimarum valle blog.

We talked last night about other aspects of the calendar. The new English calendar has moved the feast of St Cuthbert, our diocesan patron, to September 4th. This is understandable because in Lent, outside of this diocese, it would not be possible to celebrate it as a memorial and so putting it on the feast of the translation of St Cuthbert, means other parts of the country can celebrate him. In this diocese it remains on its traditional day of March 20th and has the rank of a feast. However it was regretted that we here have lost the interesting feast of the translation on September 4th and the day is now a feria. Time for a votive Mass again: that`s what I did last September 4th. However following the 1962 calendar keeps the traditional days. It will be interesting to see if the new indult, when it comes, will have anything to say about the calendar.

Friday, January 05, 2007

It`s not often I say this but...

....there is a good article in the Tablet. Unfortunately I can`t give a link to the article as the Tablet requires a print subscription before the on-line version (apart from a few articles) can be viewed. However, the title of the article is `Jewels snatched from the liturgical crown` and it is by one Mike Knowles, a former lecturer in the philosophy of religion and sociology. The synopsis given is incorrect as it says:

`For the first time this year, the Feast of the Epiphany will be celebrated in England and Wales not on the old established date of 6 January but on the nearest Sunday.`

This is not true as all holydays in England and Wales have been governed by the rule until recently that if they fell on a Saturday or Monday they were transfered to the nearest Sunday. The Epiphany has been moved to a Sunday before when January 6th has been a Saturday or Monday. However the rest of the article makes some very good points. One particularly annoying aspect of the new rules is that Ascension will not, despite what Scripture says, be celebrated forty days after Easter. Mr Knowles writes:

`The fortieth day is not the "nearest Sunday available" but the fortieth day after the Resurrection. That is the tradition. The bishops, as successors to the Apostles, are in office to guard it, not dispose of it.`

Tonight I am going to a clergy dinner at St Cuthbert`s Kenton, hosted by Fr Lawrence Jones. He wants to celebrate the real Twelfth Night. A few years ago he hosted a similar event in defence of the feast of St Thomas Becket, patron of the secular clergy, which had been abolished as a feast day in the shake up of the calendar for England and Wales. This move by the authorities would have warmed the heart of Henry VIII who made the destruction of the saint`s shrine at Canterbury one of his priorities in his break with Rome!

Mr Knowles ends his article:

` The tree of the Church in England and Wales is ageing, stunted and declining but this decision will starve the roots even further.`

Well said Mike Knowles!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Looking at the website for the bishops` conference of England and Wales, the main article is a piece about the Epiphany. I found this article to be at best confusing. It reads:

The 12 days of Christmas end in the Catholic Church on January 6th with the feast of the Epiphany.
This feast, a Holy day of Obligation, is originally a third century tradition from the Eastern Church. There, it marks the birth of Jesus and his adult baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. In the West, the Epiphany is associated with the Magi, the three Kings who, according to Scripture, brought to the child Jesus gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh

No mention of the feast this year being celebrated thirteen days after Christmas with its transfer to the nearest Sunday.

UPDATE 5.01.07. The entry has changed and now reads:

On January 6th the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Epiphany.
The feast is a third century Eastern tradition. There, it marks the birth of Jesus and his adult baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. In the West, the Epiphany is associated with the Magi, the three Kings who, according to Scripture, brought to the child Jesus gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh.

No mention of the Epiphany being a holyday of obligation any more but still the insistence that the feast is celebrated on January 6th!