Encouraged by Benedict XVI’s motu proprio (July 2007) allowing for a wider use of the celebration of the pre-Vatican II mass, French Catholic traditionalists in union with Rome have created a strong lobbying effort to obtain from their bishops more celebrations of what is now officially called “the extraordinary form of the Roman rite.”
Groups such as Paix Liturgique (Liturgical Peace) promote the campaigning as an essential step toward reconciliation between traditions factions with the mainstream of French Catholicism. Helped by the Internet, which allows them to easily coordinate, pro-Tridentine activists are stepping up the pressure on the bishops before the Pope’s visit to France next September, not without causing some irritation. According to the Catholic daily La Croix (July 6), there have been relatively few requests for celebrations of the “extraordinary form,” and in most parishes only five or six people request it.
Accordingly, the some 40 new celebrations that have been established in addition to some 130 previously existing ones are considered as “sufficient” for a group estimated at between 30,000 and 45,000 people across the country. Paix Liturgique—which claims to send its frequent electronic messages to 285,000 addresses—paints a quite different picture: according to its July 10 electronic newsletter, requests have been made in some 900 French parishes, and the number of those supporting the “extraordinary form” is significant.
Paix Liturgique’s assessment is that 15 percent of practicing French would like to attend mass in this form. Archbishop Le Gall (Toulouse) acknowledges that many of those asking for pre-Vatican II masses are young people, reports Stéphanie Le Bars (Le Monde, July 6). Moreover, while very few active priests are sympathetic to traditionalists (some 1.5 percent of French clergy only), support among seminarians is significant:
17 percent of them are reported to have traditionalist leanings. Obviously, people in charge of the issue in Rome are aware of such trends. In an interview with the Italian magazine Jesus (May), Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, chairman of the Ecclesia Dei Pontifical Commission (entrusted with the task of facilitating the full communion of people who followed Archbishop Lefebvre, but also of supervising the application of the motu proprio), said that the largest numbers of people requesting masses in the extraordinary form are the faithful who have newly discovered it and are mostly young people.
Meanwhile, the followers of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (Society St. Pius X, i.e. traditionalists not in union with Rome) report that the dialogue with the Vatican continues, in contrast to some media reports. However, the Society’s leading figures suggest that reaching a full reconciliation might still take a long time, reports Yves Chiron in his newsletter Aletheia (June 25).
Some observers also mention that too much haste might make it difficult for the society to overcome its own internal differences before reaching an agreement (Aletheia, April 28).
(Paix Liturgique, http://www.paixliturgique.com; La Croix, http://www.la-croix.com; Le Monde, http://www.lemonde.fr; Aletheia, http:// www.aletheia.free.fr; Jesus, http://www.sanpaolo.org/jesus/)