UNIVERSAE ECCLESIA INSTRUCTION
VATICAN CITY, 13 MAY 2011 (VIS) – Today the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia
Dei” published the Instruction on the application of Benedict XVI’s
Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum”.
The document, approved by the Pope, bears the date of 30 April in
liturgical remembrance of Pope St. Pius V. It is signed by Cardinal William
Levada and Msgr. Guido Pozzo, respectively president and secretary of the
Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”.
1. The Apostolic Letter “Summorum Pontificum” of the Sovereign Pontiff
Benedict XVI given Motu Proprio on 7 July 2007, which came into effect on 14
September 2007, has made the richness of the Roman Liturgy more accessible
to the Universal Church.
2. With this Motu Proprio, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI promulgated a
universal law for the Church, intended to establish new regulations for the
use of the Roman Liturgy in effect in 1962.
3. The Holy Father, having recalled the concern of the Sovereign Pontiffs in
caring for the Sacred Liturgy and in their recognition of liturgical books,
reaffirms the traditional principle, recognised from time immemorial and
necessary to be maintained into the future, that “each particular Church
must be in accord with the universal Church not only regarding the doctrine
of the faith and sacramental signs, but also as to the usages universally
handed down by apostolic and unbroken tradition. These are to be maintained
not only so that errors may be avoided, but also so that the faith may be
passed on in its integrity, since the Church’s rule of prayer (lex orandi)
corresponds to her rule of belief (lex credendi).”1
4. The Holy Father recalls also those Roman Pontiffs who, in a particular
way, were notable in this task, specifically Saint Gregory the Great and
Saint Pius V. The Holy Father stresses moreover that, among the sacred
liturgical books, the Missale Romanum has enjoyed a particular prominence in
history, and was kept up to date throughout the centuries until the time of
Blessed Pope John XXIII. Subsequently in 1970, following the liturgical
reform after the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI approved for the
Church of the Latin rite a new Missal, which was then translated into
various languages. In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II promulgated the third
edition of this Missal.
5. Many of the faithful, formed in the spirit of the liturgical forms prior
to the Second Vatican Council, expressed a lively desire to maintain the
ancient tradition. For this reason, Pope John Paul II with a special Indult
Quattuor abhinc annos issued in 1984 by the Congregation for Divine Worship,
granted the faculty under certain conditions to restore the use of the
Missal promulgated by Blessed Pope John XXIII. Subsequently, Pope John Paul
II, with the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei of 1988, exhorted the Bishops to be
generous in granting such a faculty for all the faithful who requested it.
Pope Benedict continues this policy with the Motu Proprio “Summorum
Pontificum” regarding certain essential criteria for the Usus Antiquior of
the Roman Rite, which are recalled here.
6. The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI and the last edition
prepared under Pope John XXIII, are two forms of the Roman Liturgy, defined
respectively as ordinaria and extraordinaria: they are two usages of the one
Roman Rite, one alongside the other. Both are the expression of the same lex
orandi of the Church. On account of its venerable and ancient use, the forma
extraordinaria is to be maintained with appropriate honor.
7. The Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” was accompanied by a letter from
the Holy Father to Bishops, with the same date as the Motu Proprio (7 July
2007). This letter gave further explanations regarding the appropriateness
and the need for the Motu Proprio; it was a matter of overcoming a lacuna by
providing new norms for the use of the Roman Liturgy of 1962. Such norms
were needed particularly on account of the fact that, when the new Missal
had been introduced under Pope Paul VI, it had not seemed necessary to issue
guidelines regulating the use of the 1962 Liturgy. By reason of the increase
in the number of those asking to be able to use the forma extraordinaria, it
has become necessary to provide certain norms in this area.
Among the statements of the Holy Father was the following: “There is no
contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history
of the Liturgy growth and progress are found, but not a rupture. What was
sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, and
cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful.”2
8. The Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” constitutes an important
expression of the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff and of his munus of
regulating and ordering the Church’s Sacred Liturgy.3 The Motu Proprio
manifests his solicitude as Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pastor of the
Universal Church,4 and has the aim of:
a) offering to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior,
considered as a precious treasure to be preserved;
b) effectively guaranteeing and ensuring the use of the forma extraordinaria
for all who ask for it, given that the use of the 1962 Roman Liturgy is a
faculty generously granted for the good of the faithful and therefore is to
be interpreted in a sense favourable to the faithful who are its principal
c) promoting reconciliation at the heart of the Church.
II. The Responsibilities of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”
9. The Sovereign Pontiff has conferred upon the Pontifical Commission
“Ecclesia Dei” ordinary vicarious power for the matters within its
competence, in a particular way for monitoring the observance and
application of the provisions of the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” (cf.
10. § 1. The Pontifical Commission exercises this power, beyond the
faculties previously granted by Pope John Paul II and confirmed by Pope
Benedict XVI (cf. Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, artt. 11-12), also by
means of the power to decide upon recourses legitimately sent to it, as
hierarchical Superior, against any possible singular administrative
provision of an Ordinary which appears to be contrary to the Motu Proprio.
§ 2. The decrees by which the Pontifical Commission decides recourses may be
challenged ad normam iuris before the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic
11. After having received the approval from the Congregation for Divine
Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Pontifical Commission
“Ecclesia Dei” will have the task of looking after future editions of
liturgical texts pertaining to the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.
III. Specific Norms
12. Following upon the inquiry made among the Bishops of the world, and with
the desire to guarantee the proper interpretation and the correct
application of the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, this Pontifical
Commission, by virtue of the authority granted to it and the faculties which
it enjoys, issues this Instruction according to can. 34 of the Code of Canon
The Competence of Diocesan Bishops
13. Diocesan Bishops, according to Canon Law, are to monitor liturgical
matters in order to guarantee the common good and to ensure that everything
is proceeding in peace and serenity in their Dioceses5, always in agreement
with the mens of the Holy Father clearly expressed by the Motu Proprio
“Summorum Pontificum”.6 In cases of controversy or well-founded doubt about
the celebration in the forma extraordinaria, the Pontifical Commission
Ecclesia Dei will adjudicate.
14. It is the task of the Diocesan Bishop to undertake all necessary
measures to ensure respect for the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite,
according to the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum”.
The coetus fidelium (cf. Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, art. 5 § 1)
15. A coetus fidelium (“group of the faithful”) can be said to be stabiliter
existens (“existing in a stable manner”), according to the sense of art. 5 §
1 of the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, when it is constituted by some
people of an individual parish who, even after the publication of the Motu
Proprio, come together by reason of their veneration for the Liturgy in the
Usus Antiquior, and who ask that it might be celebrated in the parish church
or in an oratory or chapel; such a coetus (“group”) can also be composed of
persons coming from different parishes or dioceses, who gather together in a
specific parish church or in an oratory or chapel for this purpose.
16. In the case of a priest who presents himself occasionally in a parish
church or an oratory with some faithful, and wishes to celebrate in the
forma extraordinaria, as foreseen by articles 2 and 4 of the Motu Proprio
“Summorum Pontificum”, the pastor or rector of the church, or the priest
responsible, is to permit such a celebration, while respecting the schedule
of liturgical celebrations in that same church.
17. § 1. In deciding individual cases, the pastor or the rector, or the
priest responsible for a church, is to be guided by his own prudence,
motivated by pastoral zeal and a spirit of generous welcome.
§ 2. In cases of groups which are quite small, they may approach the
Ordinary of the place to identify a church in which these faithful may be
able to come together for such celebrations, in order to ensure easier
participation and a more worthy celebration of the Holy Mass.
18. Even in sanctuaries and places of pilgrimage the possibility to
celebrate in the forma extraordinaria is to be offered to groups of pilgrims
who request it (cf. Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, art. 5 § 3), if
there is a qualified priest.
19. The faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extraordinaria
must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be
against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments
celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman Pontiff as Supreme
Pastor of the Universal Church.
Sacerdos idoneus (“Qualified Priest”) (cf. Motu Proprio “Summorum
Pontificum”, art 5 § 4)
20. With respect to the question of the necessary requirements for a priest
to be held idoneus (“qualified”) to celebrate in the forma extraordinaria,
the following is hereby stated:
a) Every Catholic priest who is not impeded by Canon Law7 is to be
considered idoneus (“qualified”) for the celebration of the Holy Mass in the
b) Regarding the use of the Latin language, a basic knowledge is necessary,
allowing the priest to pronounce the words correctly and understand their
c) Regarding knowledge of the execution of the Rite, priests are presumed to
be qualified who present themselves spontaneously to celebrate the forma
extraordinaria, and have celebrated it previously.
21. Ordinaries are asked to offer their clergy the possibility of acquiring
adequate preparation for celebrations in the forma extraordinaria. This
applies also to Seminaries, where future priests should be given proper
formation, including study of Latin8 and, where pastoral needs suggest it,
the opportunity to learn the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.
22. In Dioceses without qualified priests, Diocesan Bishops can request
assistance from priests of the Institutes erected by the Pontifical
Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, either to the celebrate the forma extraordinaria
or to teach others how to celebrate it.
23. The faculty to celebrate sine populo (or with the participation of only
one minister) in the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite is given by the
Motu Proprio to all priests, whether secular or religious (cf. Motu Proprio
“Summorum Pontificum”, art. 2). For such celebrations therefore, priests, by
provision of the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, do not require any
special permission from their Ordinaries or superiors.
Liturgical and Ecclesiastical Discipline
24. The liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria are to be used as they
are. All those who wish to celebrate according to the forma extraordinaria
of the Roman Rite must know the pertinent rubrics and are obliged to follow
25. New saints and certain of the new prefaces can and ought to be inserted
into the 1962 Missal9, according to provisions which will be indicated
26. As foreseen by article 6 of the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, the
readings of the Holy Mass of the Missal of 1962 can be proclaimed either
solely in the Latin language, or in Latin followed by the vernacular or, in
Low Masses, solely in the vernacular.
27. With regard to the disciplinary norms connected to celebration, the
ecclesiastical discipline contained in the Code of Canon Law of 1983
28. Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own
area, the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” derogates from those provisions
of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and
incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.
Confirmation and Holy Orders
29. Permission to use the older formula for the rite of Confirmation was
confirmed by the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” (cf. art. 9 § 2).
Therefore, in the forma extraordinaria, it is not necessary to use the newer
formula of Pope Paul VI as found in the Ordo Confirmationis.
30. As regards tonsure, minor orders and the subdiaconate, the Motu Proprio
“Summorum Pontificum” does not introduce any change in the discipline of the
Code of Canon Law of 1983; consequently, in Institutes of Consecrated Life
and Societies of Apostolic Life which are under the Pontifical Commission
“Ecclesia Dei”, one who has made solemn profession or who has been
definitively incorporated into a clerical institute of apostolic life,
becomes incardinated as a cleric in the institute or society upon ordination
to the diaconate, in accordance with canon 266 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law.
31. Only in Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
which are under the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and in those which
use the liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria, is the use of the
Pontificale Romanum of 1962 for the conferral of minor and major orders
32. Art. 9 § 3 of the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” gives clerics
the faculty to use the Breviarium Romanum in effect in 1962, which is to be
prayed entirely and in the Latin language.
The Sacred Triduum
33. If there is a qualified priest, a coetus fidelium (“group of faithful”),
which follows the older liturgical tradition, can also celebrate the Sacred
Triduum in the forma extraordinaria. When there is no church or oratory
designated exclusively for such celebrations, the parish priest or Ordinary,
in agreement with the qualified priest, should find some arrangement
favourable to the good of souls, not excluding the possibility of a
repetition of the celebration of the Sacred Triduum in the same church.
The Rites of Religious Orders
34. The use of the liturgical books proper to the Religious Orders which
were in effect in 1962 is permitted.
Pontificale Romanum and the Rituale Romanum
35. The use of the Pontificale Romanum, the Rituale Romanum, as well as
the Caeremoniale Episcoporum in effect in 1962, is permitted, in keeping
with n. 28 of this Instruction, and always respecting n. 31 of the same
1. BENEDICTUS XVI, Litterae Apostolicae Summorum Pontificum motu proprio
datae, I, AAS 99 (2007) 777; cf. Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, third
edition 2002, n. 397.
2. BENEDICTUS XVI, Epistola ad Episcopos ad producendas Litteras Apostolicas
motu proprio datas, de Usu Liturgiae Romanae Instaurationi anni 1970
praecedentis, AAS 99 (2007) 798.
3. Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 838 §1 and §2.
4. Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 331.
5. Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canons 223 § 2 or 838 §1 and §4.
6. BENEDICTUS XVI, Epistola ad Episcopos ad producendas Litteras Apostolicas
motu proprio datas, de Usu Liturgiae Romanae Instaurationi anni 1970
praecedentis, AAS 99 (2007) 799.
7. Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 900 § 2.
8. Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 249; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council,
Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 36; Declaration Optatum totius, 13.
9. BENEDICTUS XVI, Epistola ad Episcopos ad producendas Litteras Apostolicas
motu proprio datas, de Usu Liturgiae Romanae Instaurationi anni 1970
praecedentis, AAS 99 (2007) 797.
COM-ED/ VIS 20110513 (2680)
NOTICE ON NEW INSTRUCTION UNIVERSAE ECCLESIA
VATICAN CITY, 13 MAY 2011 (VIS) – Following is the notice, in full,
summarizing the new Instruction Universae Ecclesia regarding the application
of the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” issued by Fr. Federico Lombardi,
director of the Holy See Press Office.
“Instruction on the application of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum
(of 7 July 2007, entered into effect 14 September 2007) was approved by Pope
Benedict XVI last 8 April and carries the date of 30 April in liturgical
remembrance of Pope St. Pius V.
The Instruction, called Universae Ecclesiae on the basis of the first
words of the text in Latin, comes from the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia
Dei, to which the Pope also entrusted the task of monitoring the observance
and application of the Motu Proprio. It therefore bears the signatures of
its president, Cardinal William Levada, and secretary, Msgr. Guido Pozzo.
The document was sent to all the Bishops in the past weeks. Remember that
“Instructions clarify the prescripts of laws, elaborating on and determining
the methods to be observed in fulfilling them” (CIC, can. 34). As is said in
n.12, the Instruction was issued “with the desire to guarantee the proper
interpretation and the correct application of the Motu Proprio ‘Summorum
It is natural that, in its application, the Instruction follow the law
contained in the Motu Proprio. The fact that this occurs now, three years
later, is easily explained by recalling that in the Pope’s Letter
accompanying the Motu Proprio, he explicitly said to the Bishops: “I invite
you to send to the Holy See an account of your experiences, three years
after this Motu Proprio has taken effect. If truly serious difficulties come
to light, ways to remedy them can be sought.” The letter accompanying the
Instruction thus bears with it the fruit of a three year trial of the
application of the law, which was foreseen from the beginning.
The document is presented in plain wording and is easily read. Its
Introduction (nos. 1-8) briefly recalls the history of the Roman Missal up
to the last edition of John XXIII in 1962 and the new Missal approved by
Paul VI in 1970 following the liturgical reform of Vatican Council II. It
repeats the fundamental principle that there are “two forms of the Roman
Liturgy, defined respectively as extraordinaria and ordinaria: they are two
usages of the one Roman Rite, one alongside the other. Both are the
expression of the same lex orandi of the Church. On account of its venerable
and ancient use, the forma extraordinaria is to be maintained with
appropriate honor” (n. 6).
The purpose of the Motu Proprio, expressed in the following three points,
bears repeating: a) to offer to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in its
most ancient usage, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved; b) to
effectively guarantee and ensure, for all who ask for it, the use of the
forma extraordinaria; and c) to promote reconciliation at the heart of the
Church (cf. n. 8).
A brief section of the document (nos. 9-11) recalls the tasks and powers
of the Commission Ecclesia Dei, to which the Pope “has conferred ordinary
vicarious power” on the subject. Among others, this has two very important
consequences. First of all, this Commission can decide on recourses
legitimately sent to it against eventual measures taken by bishops or other
Ordinaries that seem to be in conflict with the dispositions of the Motu
Proprio (while retaining the possibility of further challenging the
decisions of the Commission itself before the Supreme Tribunal of the
Apostolic Signatura). Moreover, it falls to the Commission, with the
approval of the Congregation for Divine Worship, to take care of eventual
editions of liturgical texts for the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite
(for example, it is to be hoped that, following the document, new saints and
new prefaces will be added).
The properly normative part of the document (nos. 12-35) contains 23 brief
points on different topics.
The competence of diocesan bishops to implement the Motu Proprio is
reasserted, with the reminder that in cases of controversy regarding the
celebration in the forma extraordinaria, the Commission Ecclesia Dei will
It clarifies the concept of coetus fidelium stabiliter existens (“where
there exists a stable group of faithful”), whose desire to attend the
celebration in the forma extraordinaria is to be willingly accepted by
pastors. While leaving an evaluation of the number of persons necessary to
constitute such a group to the prudent assessment of the pastors, it
specifies that it not be necessarily constituted by persons belonging to a
single parish, but can be composed of persons coming from different parishes
or even different dioceses. Always keeping in mind respect for the widest
pastoral needs, the Instruction proposes a spirit of “generous welcome”
toward the groups of faithful who request the forma extraordinaria and the
priests who occasionally ask to celebrate that form with some faithful.
Also very important is the clarification (n. 19) according to which the
faithful who request the celebration of the forma extraordinaria “must not
in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against
the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in
the forma ordinaria” or against the Pope’s authority as Supreme Pastor of
the Universal Church. Such would, in fact, be in obvious contradiction of
the purpose of the Motu’s “reconciliation”.
Important indications regarding the “qualified priest” to celebrate the
forma extraordinaria are also given. Naturally, he should not have
impediments from a canonical aspect. He should know Latin sufficiently well
and know the rite to be celebrated. Bishops should, therefore, make adequate
formation possible in the seminaries to such ends and the possibility is
noted, if other qualified priests are unavailable, of the assistance of
priests from the Institutes established by the Commission Ecclesia Dei
(which normally use the forma extraordinaria).
The Instruction repeats that every priest, whether diocesan or religious,
has the right to celebrate the Mass sine popolo (without a congregation) in
the forma extraordinaria if they so desire. Therefore, if it is a
celebration with the participation of only one minister, the individual
religious do not need the permission of their superiors.
Always in reference to the forma extraordinaria, there follow norms
regarding the liturgical rubrics and use of liturgical books (such as the
Ritual, the Pontifical, and the Ceremonial of Bishops), the possibility of
using the vernacular for the readings (proclaimed either after the Latin
language readings or even in alternative to them in “Low Masses”), the
possibility for clerics to use the pre-reform Breviary, and the possibility
of celebrating the Sacred Triduum of Holy Week for groups of faithful who
request the ancient rite. As regards holy ordination, the use of ancient
liturgical books is only permitted in the Institutes that are under the
Commission Ecclesia Dei.
On finishing the letter, one is left with the impression of a
well-balanced text that intends to promote – as intended by the Pope – a
serene usage of the pre-reform liturgy by priests and faithful who feel its
sincere desire for their spiritual well-being: even more, a text that
intends to guarantee the legitimacy and efficacy of such usage in keeping
with what is reasonably possible. At the same time, the text is animated
with trust in the bishops’ pastoral wisdom and insists very strongly on a
spirit of ecclesial communion that should be present in all – faithful,
priests, and bishops – so that the purpose of reconciliation, so evident in
the Holy Father’s decision, not be hindered or frustrated but fostered and
OP/ VIS 20110513