Observations on the Use of the Roman Liturgy Prior to the 1970 Reform
Vatican Press Office
[The following "informative sheet" was provided by the Press Office of the Holy See.]

1. The Motu Proprio 'Summorum Pontificum' lays down new rules for the use of the Roman liturgy that preceded the reform of 1970. The reasons for such provisions are clearly explained in the Holy Father's letter to bishops which accompanies the Motu Proprio (the two documents have been sent to all the presidents of Episcopal conferences and to all nuncios, who have arranged to distribute them to all bishops).

2. The fundamental provision is as follows: the Roman liturgy will have two forms ('usus'):

a) The ordinary form is the one that follows the liturgical reform undertaken by Pope Paul VI in the year 1970, as it appears in the liturgical books promulgated at that time. There is an official edition in Latin which may be used always and everywhere, and translations in divers languages published by the various Episcopal Conferences.

b) The extraordinary form: which is that celebrated in accordance with the liturgical books published by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962."

3. The Motu proprio allows the use of the prior liturgy for those who desire it; it does not intend, on the other hand, to impose the extraordinary form, that is, the prior liturgy, on those who are happy with the ordinary form.

4. The liturgy according to the 1962 books is celebrated in the Latin language but the readings contained in the Missal can be read to the people in the vernacular. To favor an active participation, the faithful who attend such celebrations are invited to recite together with the celebrant the diverse parts of the ‘Ordinarium Missae’ (Ordinary of the Mass – Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) which, in sung Masses, may be sung and if possible even by the people. When there are faithful present, it is not suitable for the entire Mass to be celebrated in a low voice. It is recommended that the faithful follow the prayers of the Mass with a bi-lingual missal, such as those that already exist and which will certainly be re-edited.

5. In parishes, in practice, the liturgy being used will not change: instead, it will be possible for the pastor to add to the Masses celebrated in the ordinary form, a second Mass according to the extraordinary form.

6. The two forms of the liturgy follow two diverse calendars, different on the dates of several secondary feasts, and they have two diverse lectionaries. Such differences should not create great difficulties: for example, the Ambrosian rite, celebrated in the Diocese of Milan, has its own calendar and lectionary.

7. The Motu proprio foresees the possibility of using the earlier rite for the Sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony. If such a reasonably-motivated demand exists, the pastor can decide to use the earlier missal; it is clear, however, that all prescriptions on the preparations for these sacraments, that have been set forth by the Episcopal Conferences, remain in force. The same possibility exists for funerals, both for the funeral Mass in church and for the funeral rite at the cemetery.

8. The local bishop may erect a personal parish, when in that place is found a very substantial number of faithful who wish to follow the earlier liturgy. It would be appropriate for the numbers of faithful to be substantial, even if not comparable to those of other parishes.

9. The liturgical books needed for the extraordinary form of the Roman liturgy are:

- The Roman Missal in the 1962 edition; previous editions differ in the rubrics on the status (level) of feasts. In the 1962 edition there is always the ‘Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae,’ previously renewed in 1955 by Pope Pius XII. Pope John XXIII reformulated the prayer ‘Pro Judaeis’ in the Good Friday liturgy, and inserted it in this edition of the Roman Missal. Thus, it is not licit to use the Holy Week liturgy prior to the 1962 edition.

- The Roman Ritual, for the Sacraments of Baptism, Matrimony, Penance, Anointing of the Sick and other Blessings and Prayers contained in the Ritual.

- The Roman Pontifical for the case in which the bishop decides to confer Confirmation on a group of faithful who wish it in the earlier rite. The use of the 1962 Roman Pontifical was permitted in 1988 for those communities who followed the entire earlier rite of conferring the Sacrament of Orders.

- The Roman Breviary, for priests who wish to recite the Divine Office in consonance with the 1962 Missal.

All four of these liturgical books must be reprinted for practical use. Those publishing houses that specialize in such books must be charged with this, with the ‘recognitio’ of the competent Pontifical Commission.

10. The priests necessary for the celebration of the liturgy in the extraordinary form must be prepared for this task.

11. The Motu proprio foresees that the jurisdiction for the application of the new dispositions belongs to the “Ecclesia Dei” Pontifical Commission which will take care of problems that could arise.

12. The Motu proprio is scheduled to enter into force on September 14. The Pope’s Letter explicitly asks Bishops to give an accounting after three years, in such a way as to be able to find solutions if “serious difficulties” arise.


The explanatory note also highlights several characteristics of the 1962 Missal:

"It is a 'plenary' or 'integral' Missal in the Latin language, that is, it also contains the readings for the celebrations (it is not distinct from the 'Lectionary' as the later 1970 Missal is).

"It contains just one Eucharistic prayer, the 'Roman Canon' (corresponding to the first Eucharist Prayer of the later Missal, which includes a choice of various Eucharistic Prayers).

"Various prayers (including a large part of the Canon) are recited by the priest in a low voice inaudible to the people.

"Other differences include the reading of the beginning of the Gospel of John at the end of Mass.

"The 1962 Missal does not provide for concelebration. It says nothing concerning the direction of the altar or of the celebrant (whether facing the people or not).

"The Pope's Letter envisages the possibility of future enrichment of the 1962 Missal (inclusion of new saints, new prefaces, etc.)."

[Translation of Italian original by Joan Lewis, EWTNews]

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