Westminster Cathedral for Traditional Latin Mass Celebrated

by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos

On Saturday 14 June 2008, at the invitation of the Latin Mass Society, Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (charged with oversight of the Vatican’s relations with the religious communities and laity committed to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite) and one of Pope Benedict XVI’s closest collaborators, celebrated a Pontifical High Mass at the Throne in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Traditional Latin Rite) in Westminster Cathedral for a congregation of over 1,500 which packed the side aisles and overflowed into the piazza. It was the first time since the liturgical changes of 1969 that a Cardinal had celebrated the Extraordinary Form in Westminster Cathedral. The Mass (of St Basil the Great) was celebrated at the High Altar – the free-standing new rite altar having been removed – and was filmed by the LMS for subsequent transmission on EWTN. It will also be released as a DVD.

Saint Richard Gwyn

The congregation included large numbers of young people and families and Cardinal Castrillón was visibly delighted with his enthusiastic reception. During the Mass, a message of welcome from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor was read out and the Westminster Cathedral choir sang Palestrina’s Missa Sacerdos et Pontifex.

During his Homily, Cardinal Castrillón told the congregation: “The Holy See is mindful of your love of the Extraordinary Form…My visit today and my celebration of this Pontifical Mass in the Classical Roman Rite is an indication of my personal support for your worthy aims and of the desire also of the Holy See to identify with them.”

Before Mass began, the Cardinal in Cappa Magna processed along Ambrosden Avenue outside the Cathedral to be received at the West Door. He then processed into the Cathedral to go to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel to pray – included in his procession were almost 40 priests, Knights of four separate Orders, the Provost of the Cathedral Chapter and Abbots and Priors of various Orders. After praying he processed to the Sanctuary, pausing to bless the many children thrust forward by proud parents. In the Sanctuary the Cardinal then vested at the Throne before commencing Mass.

The huge crowd of faithful gave a wonderful demonstration of ‘active participation’ when they sang the people’s parts with gusto. During his Homily, Cardinal Castrillón also said: “All of us, priests and faithful, are called to unite ourselves and our sufferings to the offering of Christ. This is the most fundamental dimension of ‘active participation’ in the Mass.”

After Mass, Cardinal Castrillón processed back to the Sacristy where he blessed his Sacred Ministers, clergy and servers, unvested and left immediately in his car for Heathrow Airport to catch an early evening flight to Rome where he had commitments the following morning. The Cardinal’s visit had lasted 24 hours but made a tremendous impact on the morale of those attached to the Extraordinary Form.

Cardinal Castrillón’s visit began on Friday 13 June when he flew into Heathrow Airport at 4.20 pm to be welcomed by Mr Julian Chadwick, Chairman of the LMS. The Cardinal was conveyed by car to his London hotel where he had a private meeting with Archbishop Sainz Muñoz, the Papal Nuncio. Later he was taken by car to The Travellers Club in St James’s for a private dinner attended by the Committee of the LMS and the Cardinal’s Sacred Ministers for the following day’s Mass.

On Saturday morning (14 June), Cardinal Castrillón gave a press conference for journalists representing The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Reuters, The Catholic Herald and The Tablet. During the conference, the Cardinal stated that all parishes should offer the Extraordinary Form, preferably on a weekly Sunday basis, and that the Ecclesia Dei Commission will write to all seminaries asking them to provide training in the theology, rubrics and Latin of the Extraordinary Form. He also confirmed that a ‘stable group’ could consist of as little as 2-3 persons gathered from across parish boundaries.

After the press conference the Cardinal was driven to Westminster Cathedral Hall where he addressed the LMS Annual General Meeting. Some highlights from his address were: “Pope Benedict XVI knows and deeply appreciates the importance of the ancient liturgical rites for the Church…That is why he issued a juridical document – a Motu Proprio – which establishes legal freedom for the older rites throughout the Church. It is important to understand that Summorum Pontificum establishes a new juridical reality in the Church.”

“...superiors... must recognise that these rights are now firmly established in the law of the Church by the Vicar of Christ himself…This means that parish priests and bishops must accept the petitions and the requests of the faithful who ask for it [the Extraordinary Form] and that priests and bishops must do all that they can to provide this great liturgical treasure of the Church’s tradition for the faithful.”

“...two factors are necessary. 1. It is first of all important to find a centrally located church, convenient to the greatest number of the faithful who have requested this Mass…2. It is crucial that there be priests willing to celebrate according to the 1962 Roman Missal and thus to provide this important pastoral service on a weekly Sunday basis….Bishops need to be sensitive to such pastoral provisions and to facilitate them. This is a fundamental intention of Summorum Pontificum.”

“Let me say this plainly: the Holy Father wants the ancient use of the Mass to become a normal occurence in the liturgical life of the Church so that all Christ’s faithful – young and old – can become familiar with the older rites and draw from their tangible beauty and transcendence.”

The Cardinal’s address was received with sustained applause. He was then presented with an antique silver Pyx by Mr Julian Chadwick as a token of the LMS’s gratitude. After the AGM the Cardinal had a private meeting with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, and then attended an LMS lunch given in his honour. He was delighted to be presented with a specially made card and posy by three youngsters representing the many children and young families attached to the Extraordinary Form. The message in the card read: “For Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos - Thank you for all you are doing to support the children and young people who worship in the Extraordinary Form. Please pass on our thanks to Pope Benedict! On behalf of the children of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.”

Finally, the highlight of Cardinal Castrillón’s visit approached as he was escorted to the Sacristy of Westminster Cathedral to prepare for Pontifical Mass.

After the Mass and waving goodbye to Cardinal Castrillón’s car, Mr Julian Chadwick, Chairman of the LMS, said: “Second only to Pope Benedict’s Motu Proprio, this Pontifical Mass has been the high point of the LMS’s 43 year struggle to preserve and re-introduce the Traditional Latin Rite. Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos has spoken very plainly during his visit, stressing the rights of the faithful and the duties of priests and bishops as established in the Holy Father’s Motu Proprio. These new rights and duties are still sinking in but they are beginning to be better understood and they will result in a widespread re-introduction of the Extraordinary Form in the life of the Church in England and Wales over the next few years. The LMS will work tirelessly to accomplish the clear wish of Pope Benedict. We invite all the priests and bishops of England and Wales to work with us”.