Arch­bi­shop Viganò on the ancient Mass: „one perceives the sacred with the senses“.

By JÖRG WOLLSCHEIDER | In the follo­wing state­ment, the indo­mi­table arch­bi­shop calls on priests to disre­gard the Vatican prohi­bi­tions against cele­bra­ting the old Triden­tine Mass. They essen­ti­ally live for „God and for the neigh­bour,“ their apos­to­late is unfruitful if their „own holi­ness is not culti­vated“. Through them, he would be deeply moved by the „serene majesty of the rite, as if he had stepped out of time and into the eter­nity of God.“


The Council of Trent (1570) carefully reor­ga­nised the exis­ting Latin rite of Mass without chan­ging its subs­tance, which goes back to the Last Supper. Rather, the aim was to push back local idio­syn­cra­sies and varia­tions that had deve­loped over the centu­ries. The Second Vatican Council led prima­rily to a „Protes­tan­ti­sa­tion“ of the Mass and is seen by many as the real cause of the Church’s secu­la­ri­sa­tion and turning away from the eternal truths of the faith and its conse­quent decline. This obser­va­tion is undoub­tedly correct: wherever the old Mass is cele­brated, the churches are overrun with faithful, the parishes flou­rish and there are many voca­tions to the priest­hood [link, link, link].

Pope Francis‘ fight against the Triden­tine Mass is para­do­xical only for those who do not know the essen­tial back­ground. For example, the Vatican’s high-ranking intel­li­gence officer, Juan Batista Yofre, said in an inter­view broad­cast on 27.11.2017 on the Argen­ti­nian tele­vi­sion programme „Miranda“: „I am a free­mason and Berg­o­glio is one too“ [link, link]. This well-founded suspi­cion is beco­ming more and more substan­tiated, espe­ci­ally since Francis‘ church policy actually only plays into the hands of the clas­sical oppon­ents of the faith [link].

Letter from Arch­bi­shop Viganò: You who allow your­selves to forbid the Holy Apos­tolic Mass, have you ever cele­brated it?

You who allow your­selves to forbid the Holy Apos­tolic Mass, have you ever cele­brated it? You who, at the height of your litur­gical cathe­drals, get upset about the „old Mass“, have you ever thought about its prayers, its rites and its ancient and sacred gestures? I have often asked myself this in recent years, because although I knew this Mass from an early age, although I had learned to cele­brate it and to respond to the cele­brant when I was so small that I still wore boys‘ pants, I had almost forgotten and lost it. Introibo ad altare Dei. Knee­ling on the free­zing cold steps of the altar in winter before I went to school. Swea­ting on hot summer days under my altar boy robe. I had forgotten that Mass, even though it was the Mass of my ordi­na­tion to the priest­hood on 24 March 1968: a time when one could already perceive the signs of the revo­lu­tion that shortly after­wards would rob the Church of its most precious treasure and put a coun­ter­feit ritual in its place.

How did the Arch­bi­shop redis­cover the old Mass for himself?

Well, the Mass, which was abolished and banned by the Council reform in my first years as a priest, remained a distant memory, like the smile of a faraway loved one, the look of a missed rela­tive, the sound of a Sunday with its bells, its friendly voices. But it was some­thing to do with nost­algia, with youth, with the enthu­siasm of a time when church obli­ga­tions were still ahead, when ever­yone wanted to believe that the world could recover from the after­math of the Second World War and the threat of commu­nism with a new spiri­tual momentum. We wanted to believe that economic prospe­rity could somehow be accom­pa­nied by a moral and reli­gious rebirth of our nation [Italy]. Despite the 1968 revo­lu­tion, the occu­pa­tions, terro­rism, the Red Brigades and the crisis in the Middle East. Thus, amidst the thousand eccle­si­a­stical and diplo­matic commit­ments, the memory had crystal­lised in my mind of some­thing that in reality remained unre­solved, that had been „tempo­r­a­rily“ put aside for decades. Some­thing that waited pati­ently, with the forbe­arance that only God gives us.

My decision to denounce the scan­dals of American prelates and the Roman Curia was the occa­sion that made me look in a diffe­rent light not only at my role as Arch­bi­shop and as Apos­tolic Nuncio, but also at the soul of that priest­hood which service, first in the Vatican and latterly in the United States, had left some­what incom­plete: more for my priest­hood than for the ministry. And what I had not unders­tood until then became clear to me through a seemingly unex­pected circum­s­tance, when my personal safety seemed to be in danger and I found myself forced against my will to live almost in hiding, far from the palaces of the Curia. At that time, this blessed seclu­sion, which I now consider a kind of monastic decision, led me to redis­cover the Holy Triden­tine Mass. I remember very well the day I put on the tradi­tional vest­ments with the Ambro­sian cappino and maniple instead of the chasuble. I remember the fear I felt when, after almost fifty years, I prono­unced the prayers of the missal, which reap­peared from my mouth as if I had recited them only a short time before. Confi­temini Domino, quoniam bonus, instead of the psalm Judica me, Deus of the Roman rite. Munda cor meum ac labia mea. These words were no longer the words of the altar boy or the young semi­na­rian, but the words of the cele­brant, the me who was once again, dare I say for the first time, cele­bra­ting before the Most Holy Trinity. For while it is true that the priest is a person who essen­ti­ally lives for others – for God and for neigh­bour – it is equally true that his apos­to­late is as barren as a clanging cymbal if he is not aware of his own iden­tity and has not culti­vated his own holiness.

I know well that these reflec­tions can leave unmoved or even provoke conde­s­cen­sion in those who have never had the grace to cele­brate the Mass of all times. But the same thing happens, I imagine, to those who have never fallen in love and who do not under­stand the enthu­siasm and chaste devo­tion of the beloved to his beloved, or to those who do not know the joy of losing them­selves in her eyes. The boring Roman litur­gist, the prelate with his tail­ored clerical suit and his pectoral cross in his pocket, the consul­tant of the Roman Congre­ga­tion with the latest copy of Conci­lium or Civiltà Catto­lica in his hand, looks at the Mass of St Pius V with the eyes of an ento­mo­lo­gist (the science that deals with insects) who looks at this peri­cope as closely as a natu­ra­list looks at the veins of a leaf or the wings of a butterfly. Some­times I even wonder if they don’t do it with the atten­ti­ve­ness of a patho­lo­gist cutting open a living body with a scalpel. But when a priest approa­ches the ancient Mass with a minimum of inner life, whether he has known it before or is disco­ve­ring it for the first time, he is deeply moved by the serene majesty of the rite, as if he has stepped out of time and into the eter­nity of God.

One perceives the sacred with the senses

I want to make my confreres in the epis­co­pate and priest­hood under­stand that this Mass is divine by nature because you perceive the sacred with your senses: One is lite­rally taken up into heaven, into the presence of the Most Holy Trinity and the heavenly court, far away from the noise of the world. It is a love song in which the repe­ti­tion of signs, obei­sances and holy words is by no means super­fluous, just as a mother never tires of kissing her son or a bride never tires of saying „I love you“ to her husband. Ever­y­thing is forgotten there, because ever­y­thing that is said and sung there is eternal, all the gestures that are performed there are ever­las­ting, outside of history and yet embedded in a conti­nuum that connects the Cenacle, Calvary and the altar on which the Mass is cele­brated. The cele­brant does not address the congre­ga­tion in order to be intel­li­gible, to be nice or to appear topical, but he addresses God: and before God there is only the feeling of infi­nite grati­tude for the privi­lege of carrying with him the prayers of the Chris­tian people, the joys and sorrows of so many souls, the sins and faults of those who ask for forgi­ve­ness and mercy, the grati­tude for graces received and the inter­ces­sions for our dear departed. One is alone, and at the same time one feels closely connected to an infi­nite host of souls crossing time and space.

When I cele­brate the Apos­tolic Mass, I think of how, on the same altar conse­crated by the relics of the martyrs, so many saints and thou­sands of priests speak the same words I say, repeat the same gestures, make the same bows and the same genuflec­tions, and wear the same vest­ments. Above all, we receive Holy Commu­nion with the same Body and Blood of our Lord, to whom we have all been conformed in the offe­ring of the Holy Sacri­fice. When I cele­brate the Mass of all times, I realise in the most sublime and perfect way the true meaning of what the doctrine teaches us. Acting in persona Christi is not a mecha­nical repe­ti­tion of a formula, but the aware­ness that my mouth utters the same words that the Saviour spoke over the bread and wine in the Upper Room; that when I lift the host and chalice to the Father, I am repea­ting the sacri­fice that Christ made on the Cross; that when I receive Holy Commu­nion, I consume the sacri­fice and feed on God Himself, and that I am not parta­king of a party. And the whole Church is with me: the trium­phant Church, which joins in my suppli­ca­ting prayer; the suffe­ring Church, which awaits it in order to shorten the souls‘ stay in Purga­tory; and the mili­tant Church, which streng­thens itself in the daily spiri­tual struggle. But if, as we profess in faith, our mouth is truly the mouth of Christ, if our words at the conse­cra­tion are truly the words of Christ, if the hands with which we touch the sacred host and chalice are the hands of Christ, what rever­ence should we have for our bodies and keep them pure and unde­filed? What better incen­tive is there to remain in the grace of God? Munda­mini, qui fertis vasa Domini. And in the words of the missal: Aufer a nobis, quæsumus, Domine, iniqui­tates nostras: ut ad sancta sanc­torum puris mereamur mentibus introire.

Priests should try Triden­tine Mass, it is for „indo­mi­table spirits, for gene­rous and heroic souls, for hearts burning with love for God and neighbour“.

The theo­lo­gian will tell me that this is the general teaching, and that the Mass is just that, regard­less of the rite, I do not dispute it, reason­ably. But whereas the cele­bra­tion of the Triden­tine Mass is a constant reminder of the unbroken conti­nuity of the work of redemp­tion, peppered with saints and bles­sings, that does not seem to me to be the case with the Reformed rite. When I look at the table versus populum, I see there the Lutheran altar or the Protes­tant table; when I read the words of insti­tu­tion of the Last Supper in the form of a narra­tive, I hear the varia­tions of Cranmer’s Common Book of Prayer and Calvin’s service; when I leaf through the Reformed calendar, I find that the same saints that the here­tics of the pseudo-Refor­ma­tion erased. The same is true of the hymns that would horrify an English or German Catholic: When one hears the hymns of those who martyred our priests and trampled on the Blessed Sacra­ment out of contempt for „papal supers­ti­tion“ under the vaults of a church, one should under­stand the abyss that exists between the Catholic Mass and its conci­liar coun­ter­feit. Not to mention the language: the first to abolish Latin were the here­tics, in order to give the people a better under­stan­ding of the rites; a people they deceived by denying reve­aled truth and spre­a­ding error. In the Novus Ordo, ever­y­thing is profane. Ever­y­thing is instanta­neous, ever­y­thing is acci­dental, ever­y­thing is contin­gent, variable and chan­geable. There is nothing eternal, for eter­nity is immu­table, just as faith is immu­table. Just as God is unchanging.

Wiki­media: mass_in_a_connemara_cabin_by_aloysius_o27kell

There is another aspect of the tradi­tional Holy Mass that I would like to high­light and which links us to the saints and martyrs of the past. From the times of the cata­combs to the most recent perse­cu­tions, wherever the priest cele­brates the Holy Sacri­fice, even in an attic or a cellar, in the woods or in a barn or even in a van, he is in mystical commu­nion with this host of heroic witnesses to the faith, and the gaze of the Most Holy Trinity rests on this impro­vised altar; before it all the angelic hosts bow down in adora­tion; all the souls in purga­tory look to it. In this, too, above all, each of us under­stands how tradi­tion creates an indis­so­luble link between the centu­ries, not only in the fervent preser­va­tion of this treasure, but also in the over­co­ming of the trials it entails, even unto death. In the face of this thought, the arro­gance of the present tyrant with his insane decrees should streng­then us in our fide­lity to Christ and make us feel that we are an inte­gral part of the Church of all times, for we cannot win the palm of victory if we are not prepared to fight the bonum certamen.

I want my confreres to dare the unthinkable: I want them to approach the Holy Triden­tine Mass not to enjoy the lace of an alb or the embro­idery of a chasuble, or on the basis of a purely rational convic­tion about its cano­nical legi­ti­macy or the fact that it has never been abolished, but rather with the reverent fear with which Moses approa­ched the burning bush: Knowing that each of us, when we descend from the altar after the last Gospel, is in some way inwardly trans­fi­gured because there we have encoun­tered the Holy of Holies. Only there, on that mystical Sinai, can we under­stand the very essence of our priest­hood, which consists above all in offe­ring ourselves to God; a sacri­fice of ourselves toge­ther with Christ the Sacri­fice, for the greater glory of God and the salva­tion of souls; a spiri­tual sacri­fice which draws its power and strength from the Mass; self-denial to make way for the High Priest; a sign of true humi­lity in the anni­hi­la­tion of one’s own will and surrender to the will of the Father accor­ding to the example of the Lord; a gesture of true „commu­nion“ with the saints in sharing the same creed and rite. And I would like not only those who have been cele­bra­ting the Novus Ordo for decades to have this „expe­ri­ence“, but above all the young priests and those who exer­cise their ministry in the front line: The Mass of St Pius V is for indo­mi­table spirits, for gene­rous and heroic souls, for hearts burning with love for God and neighbour.

I know very well that the life of priests today consists of a thousand trials, of stress, of feeling alone in the struggle against the world, of disin­te­rest and ostra­cism by supe­riors, of a slow attri­tion that distracts from reflec­tion, from inner life and from spiri­tual growth. And I know very well that this feeling of being besieged, of feeling like a sailor who is alone and has to steer a ship through a storm, is not the prero­ga­tive of the tradi­tio­na­lists or the progres­sives, but the common fate of all those who have offered their lives to the Lord and to the Church, each with his own misery, with economic problems, misun­derstan­dings with the bishop, criti­cism from confreres, as well as the peti­tions of the faithful. And also those hours of soli­tude when the presence of God and the compa­n­ion­ship of the Virgin Mary seem to disap­pear, as in the dark night of St. John of the Cross. Quare me repu­listi? Et quare tristis incedo, dum affligit me inimicus? When the demon insi­diously wrig­gles between the internet and the tele­vi­sion, quærens quem devoret, and takes advan­tage of our weari­ness by betraying us. In these cases, which we all face, like our Lord in Geth­se­mane, it is our priest­hood that Satan wants to attack, presen­ting himself convin­cingly like Solomé before Herod and asking us for the gift of the Baptist’s head. Ab homine iniquo, et doloso erue me. In trial we are all equal: for the victory which the enemy seeks to win is not only over the poor souls of the baptised, but over Christ the priest whose anoin­ting we bear.

Triden­tine Mass the only life­line of the priesthood

For this reason, today more than ever, the Holy Triden­tine Mass is the only life­line of the Catholic priest­hood, for in it the priest is reborn every day in that privi­leged time of inti­mate union with the Most Holy Trinity, and draws from it indis­pensable graces to avoid falling into sin, to progress along the path of holi­ness and to redis­cover the healthy equi­li­brium with which to face his ministry. Those who believe that all this can be resolved as a purely cere­mo­nial or aesthetic ques­tion have unders­tood nothing of their own priestly voca­tion. For the Holy Mass „of all times“ – and that is what it really is, however it has always been opposed by the adver­sary – is not a docile mistress who offers herself to ever­yone, but a jealous and chaste bride, as jealous as the Lord Himself.

Do you want to please God or the one who keeps you away from him? Basi­cally, it is always about this ques­tion: the choice between the gentle yoke of Christ and the chains of slavery of the adver­sary. The answer will seem clear to you the moment you too, marvel­ling at this immense treasure hidden from you, discover what it means to cele­brate the Holy Sacri­fice not as pathetic „over­seers of the assembly“ but as „minis­ters of Christ and dispen­sers of the myste­ries of God“ (1 Cor 4:1).

Take the missal in hand, ask a priest friend to help you and climb the moun­tain of the Trans­fi­gu­ra­tion: Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam: ipsa me dedu­xerunt, et addu­xerunt in montem sanctum tuum, et in taber­na­cula tua. Like Peter, James and John, you too will exclaim: Domine, bonum est nos hic esse – „Lord, it is good that we are here“ (Mt 17:4). Or, in the words of the Psal­mist, repeated by the cele­brant at the offer­tory: Domine, dilexi decorem domus tuæ, et locum habi­ta­tionis gloriæ tuæ.

Once you have disco­vered it, no one will be able to take from you that by which the Lord no longer calls you servants but friends (Jn 15:15). No one will ever be able to persuade you to renounce it, and force you to be content with the adul­tera­tion put into the world by rebel­lious minds. Eratis enim aliquando tenebræ: nunc enim lux in Domino. Ut filii lucis ambu­late. „For once you were dark­ness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk ther­e­fore as children of light“ (Eph 5:8). Propter quod dicit: Surge qui dormis, et exsurge a mortuis, et illu­minabit te Christus. „Ther­e­fore saith he, Awake, thou that slee­pest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall enlighten thee“ (Eph 5:14).

+ Carlo Maria Viganò, Arch­bi­schof, 2nd  of January 2022, link

Kommentieren Sie den Artikel

Bitte geben Sie Ihren Kommentar ein!
Bitte geben Sie hier Ihren Namen ein