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SAN BERNARDINO—In the wake of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter that places new restrictions on the celebration of the Latin Mass, Bishop Alberto Rojas issued a decree ensuring that the Latin Mass will continue to be offered on its present schedule and locations in the Diocese.

“[The Latin Mass in our Diocese] will contribute to the spiritual good of the faithful,” Bishop Rojas wrote in his decree, explaining that he will grant a dispensation from one article in the Holy Father’s Motu Proprio, Traditionis custodes, which states the Latin Mass cannot be offered as a regular parish Mass.

The Latin Mass, more officially known as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, is offered weekly in the Diocese at San Secondo d’Asti Parish in Ontario and at Sacred Heart Parish in Palm Desert. Major differences between this liturgy and the Ordinary Form that emerged from the Second Vatican Council include:

  • The Mass is celebrated in the Latin language.
  • Both the celebrant and the congregation face the east wall of the church during the Mass, rather than facing each other.
  • The “high altar” is raised three steps from the floor.
  • An altar rail is often utilized to separate the altar, which signifies heaven, from the rest of the church, which signifies earth.
  • Only male altar servers are used.
  • The congregation remains mostly silent, except during entrance and exit hymns and during communion.

Issued on July 16, Traditionis custodes made sweeping changes to Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, which acknowledged the right of all priests to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962. In an accompanying letter to bishops explaining his decision, Pope Francis wrote: “In defense of the unity of the Body of Christ, I am constrained to revoke the faculty granted by my Predecessors. The distorted use that has been made of this faculty is contrary to the intentions that led to granting the freedom to celebrate the Mass with the Missale Romanum [Roman Missal] of 1962.”

The document contains eight articles that place greater jurisdiction over the celebration of the Latin Mass in the hands of the Ordinary Bishop. Any priest wishing to celebrate the Latin Mass must first obtain faculties to do so from the diocesan bishop. Religious orders that are given the responsibility of celebrating the Latin Mass in a diocese must demonstrate fidelity to Vatican II, according to the document. Pope Francis also stipulates in his letter that the readings in a Latin Mass must now be proclaimed in the local language.

In a statement accompanying his decree, Bishop Rojas echoed the Holy Father’s call for unity among the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist.

“Let us remember that we are one in the celebration of the Eucharist, as we receive essential nourishment by partaking in the real presence of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “All the different rites of the Mass have this common purpose and gift to us.”

In his letter to bishops, Pope Francis explained the reasons behind his decision to limit access to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

He said that the responses to a survey of bishops conducted by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2020 “reveal a situation that preoccupies and saddens me, and persuades me of the need to intervene.” Pope Francis said that when his predecessors allowed the celebration of the Mass according to the form used before the reforms of Vatican II, they wanted to encourage unity within the Church.

The pope said he was saddened that the celebration of the Extraordinary Form was now characterized by a rejection of the Second Vatican Council and its liturgical reforms. To doubt the Council, he said, is “to doubt the Holy Spirit himself who guides the Church.”

Catholic News Agency (CAN) contributed to this report.