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Cardinal Walter Brandmuller elevates the Eucharist during an old rite Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica in 2011 (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A group of 48 British public figures has signed a letter published in The Times opposing further restrictions on the celebration of the Mass in the old rite. Source: The Tablet.

The signatories, including Princess Michael of Kent, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, human rights activist Bianca Jagger, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, opera singer Kiri Te Kanewa and the composer Sir James MacMillan, said that suppressing the liturgy pre-dating the Second Vatican Council was “an unnecessary and insensitive act in a world where history can all too easily slip away forgotten”.

They were responding to “reports from Rome” that the Latin Mass was “to be banished from nearly every Catholic church”. Anonymous sources in the Vatican claimed last month that curial officials had prepared a document to prohibit the celebration of the old rite except in recognised institutes, which was awaiting the Pope’s approval.

“This is a painful and confusing prospect, especially for the growing number of young Catholics whose faith has been nurtured by it,” the letter said.  

“The old rite’s ability to encourage silence and contemplation is a treasure not easily replicated, and, when gone, impossible to reconstruct.”

Sir James MacMillan, who organised the letter, wrote alongside it to emphasise that the list included “Catholics, Protestants, members of non-Christian faiths and non-believers”.

Under regulations introduced by the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes in 2021, bishops may permit priests to celebrate the old rite in specific parishes, subject to the approval of the Dicastery for Divine Worship. There has been no public confirmation of a further document, while other reports have denied that any such document exists.

The letter referred to a 1971 petition signed by 105 intellectuals and cultural figures, including Agatha Christie, which was also published in The Times. That petition opposed Paul VI’s proposal to abolish the old rite entirely, saying it “belongs to universal culture.”


UK public figures oppose ‘banishment’ of old rite from parishes (By Patrick Hudson, The Tablet)