By STAFF REPORTER
LEADING CATHOLICS including Lord Alton of Liverpool, Dom Antony Sutch and Bianca Jagger have signed a petition asking the bishops of England and Wales to provide more Sunday Masses in the extraordinary form (Tridentine rite).
The petition which has been signed by Catholics from across the political spectrum "humbly requests" that the bishops make traditional Masses widely available to the faithful, some of whom have to travel many miles in order to attend the older form of Mass, which Pope Benedict ultimately wants to see made available to Catholics in every parish.
Signatories include Catholics not normally associated with traditionalist circles, such as the pianist Stephen Hough and Robin Baird-Smith, publisher of Continuum Books. He has written on the petition: "Liberal and progressive, I am nonetheless in support of the petition's aims."
Bianca Jagger, a devout Catholic, is well-known as a radical human rights activist; but she also regularly attends Latin Mass at the London Oratory and wishes to see its provision extended throughout the world.
Prince Rupert zu Lowenstein, former president of the British Association of the Order of Malta, has signed the petition, as have Sir Rocco Forte, a major shareholder in The Catholic Herald, and Peter Sheppard, chairman of the Herald.
Priests supporting the petition include Dom Antony, former headmaster of Downside. Fr Tim Finigan, Fr Dominic Allain and Fathers Julian Large and Rupert McHardy of the London Oratory.
Writers who have signed the petition include Mary Kenny, Cristina Odone, Stuart Reid, former deputy editor of the Spectator. and the historian Desmond Seward. Prince Albert and Princess Elisabeth von Thurn and Taxis whose family has been close to the Holy Father since before he was elected Pope are also among 750 signatories.
The petition, started by Eveline Booth, a young worshipper at the Oratory, reflects concern at lack of official enthusiasm for Summorum Pontificum, the Pope's Apostolic Letter liberating the older form of Mass, published just over a year ago.
Since then, however, the number of weekly Sunday Masses celebrated in the extraordinary form has increased only very slightly, and traditionalists claim that some dioceses have done nothing to promote the Motu Proprio.
As we report on page one, the Archdiocese of Liverpool has abandoned plans to create Britain's first parish dedicated to celebrations of the traditional Latin Mass.
Miss Booth told The Catholic Herald: "I started going to the extraordinary form and discovered that it was a much more reverent experience.
"I thought it was such a shame that Catholics outside London didn't have access to this liturgy and also that some bishops and clergy didn't even want to know about it. Yet it is the Pope's wish that the older Mass should be at the forefront of worship."
The petition will be presented to the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and a copy sent to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which recently asked the English and Welsh bishops to implement the Motu Proprio more thoroughly.