BY STAFF REPORTER
THE SENIOR bishops of Western Europe and America were summoned to the Vatican last week to discuss the imminent publication of the motu proprio widening the use of the Old Rite.
The Vatican press office said the bishops were briefed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, on "the content and spirit" of the ground-breaking document. After the bishops had read and commented on the motu proprio (which means "on the Pope's own initiative") the Pontiff joined the meeting and spoke with them for about an hour.
The Vatican statement confirmed that the document would be published "within a few days" along with "an extensive personal letter" from Benedict XVI.
The document will be sent to all of the world's bishops before it is formally released.
Cardinal Connac MurphyO'Connor attended the meeting along with the presidents of the bishops' conferences of France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Switzerland, as well as Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston and Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis. Cardinal O'Malley wrote about the meeting on his blog, saying that Benedict XVI was "obviously most concerned about trying to bring about reconciliation in the Church".
He said the Pope's aim was "pastoral" and was meant to convince disaffected Catholics, such as those who follow the Society of St Pius X, to return to full communion with the Church.
The cardinal added: "He does not want this to be seen as establishing two different Roman rites, but rather one Roman rite celebrated with different forms."
Cardinal O'Malley said that the motu proprio would result in very little change in the United States, where there were only 18 priories of the Society of St Pius X.
But he explained that the Vatican meeting was held so that the bishops could grasp what the situation was like in countries such as Brazil. In one Brazilian parish, he said, 30,000 Catholics had recently been reconciled to the Church.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor has promised to do all that he can to apply the motu proprio generously. In a letter to a lay Catholic the Cardinal denied that he had resisted the Pope's document.
The letter, signed by Mgr Mark O'Toole, the Cardinal's private secretary, said: "The Cardinal would wish to assure you that he has done nothing to thwart the publication of the motu proprio and, assuming it is published before long, will do everything in his power to apply it generously."
But in a letter to the Vatican the Cardinal said that the motu proprio was not necessary in England and Wales because there was already adequate provision of the Old Rite.
The remarks were written on behalf of the bishops' conference in a confidential letter to the Vatican's Ecclesia Dei commission, which was established in 1988 to try to bring traditionalists back to the Church.
A bishops' conference spokesman confirmed that there had been correspondence between the Cardinal and the Vatican but said that the bishops had not asked for an exemption from the motu proprio. As The Catholic Herald went to press on Tuesday the motu proprio was expected to be published in the next few days. Sources in Rome have indicated that a date has been set for a press conference at which Cardinal Francis Arinze, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the presi dent of the Ecclesia Del commission, and Cardinal Julian Herranz, the former president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, will introduce the document.
It is not yet clear exactly how the Pope intends to expand the use of the Classical Rite but there has been speculation that he will oblige every bishop to licence at least a small number of priests to celebrate the Mass.
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