Bishop to perform old rite confirmations in London for the first time in three decades, reports Simon Caldwell
THE LEADER of a formerly schismatic group of traditionalist priests will next month celebrate old rite confirmations in London for the first time in about 30 years.
Bishop Fernando Areas Rifan of Campos, Brazil, will perform about 20 confirmations, with Benediction, at St Bede's Church, Clapham Park, on May 8 using ritual books pre-dating the disciplinary changes of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s.
He will also celebrate a Pontifical High Mass in the Tridentine rite in St James' s Church, Spanish Place, in the West End of London, on May 10.
Bishop Rifan was invited to London by Ciel UK, an international movement devoted to the "research of the traditional liturgy of the Church in loyalty to the Holy See".
He is the leader of the Apostolic Union of St John Vianney, an organisation of priests which, until reconciliation with Rome in January last year, followed the schismatic Swiss Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who was excommunicated by Pope John Paul 11 in 1988 after he consecrated four bishops "without a pontifical mandate and contrary to the will of the Supreme Pontiff".
Lefebvre objected to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, describing them as "Marxist" and "neoProtestant". About 400 priests followed him out of full communion with the Church to form the Society of St Pius X.
Bishop Rifan did not need to seek either permission to perform the confirmations from Archbishop Michael Bowen of Southwark or to celebrate High Mass from Cardinal Cormac MurphyO'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, but was understood to have made formal requests out of courtesy.
Fr Allen Morris, the secretary to the Department of the Christian Life and Worship of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said the bishop's authority came from Rome itself.
He said: "My understanding is that he is a member of the Fraternity of St Peter, which has been given an indult for the celebration of the rites of the Church according to the ritual books in force in 1962. He has got permission from the Vatican to do that."
He added: "It is noteworthy in the sense that it hasn't happened previously as far as I am aware, but it is not uncommon in other places. It is unusual as far as England and Wales are concerned."
Bishop Rifan's organisation, formerly called the Priestly Union of St John Vianney, was brought into full communion with Rome at the end of two years of talks which began in 2000.
The group was set up in the early 1980s by 30 priests who went into schism when they rejected the demands of a late Bishop of Campos to celebrate only the new Mass in the diocese.
The group grew and later developed its own seminary and school and gained 50 churches and about 100 chapels.
When the bishop consecrated for the Union by an excommunicated Lefebvrist bishop fell ill, Cardinal Hoyos consecrated Bishop Rifan, a priest in the organisation, as coadjutor with rights of succession.
During his visit to Britain, Bishop Rifan will also address a Ciel UK conference in Regent Hall, near Oxford Street, London.
The Latin Mass Society (LMS), an organisation set up to promote the practice of the old rite Mass, has partly funded the visit.
David Lloyd, LMS chairman, said; "We are delighted that Ciel UK has invited him to this country. Obviously, this is great news.."
The visit was arranged just weeks before Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, is expected to celebrate a Tridentine Mass in the Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome in the first ceremony of its kind to be held in a one of the main Roman basilicas for 30 years.
The event has not been confirmed by the Vatican but reports that three of the four bishops ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre and then excommunicated with him would be reconciled with the Church at the Mass have been rejected by the schismatic bishops themselves.
One of them, French Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallarais, speaking from Browerville, Minnesota, the United States, said; "This is a rumour thrown by Rome in an attempt to divide us.
"We four bishops are all together and not divided. We do not seek 'reconciliation' with Rome unless Rome converts back to Catholic tradition, back to the traditional Catholic profession of faith."
While the Society of St Pius X remains in schism from Rome, other advocates of traditionalist worship, such as Ciel and the LMS, insist they act in accordance strictly with the wishes of the Holy Father.
They point out that when the Pope excommunicated Lefebvre and his followers, he also issued the motu proprio, Ecclesia Del, in which he urged the bishops of the world to be generous in the provision of the Tridentine Mass in their dioceses.