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Bishop Jonathan Baker offering ‘Mass’ in St. John Lateran Screenshot/Facebook

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — The Vicar of the Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran has issued an apology after a group of Anglican clergy were somehow permitted to conduct a religious service inside the ancient basilica.

The apology was issued Thursday by Bishop Guerino di Tora, an auxiliary bishop of Rome for the northern area and the Vicar of the Chapter of St. John Lateran.

“The Lateran Chapter, in the person of His Excellency Monsignor Guerino di Tora, capitular vicar, expresses deep regret for what happened last Tuesday, April 18, inside the basilica of St. John in Rome,” the brief press release began.

The statement was in response to an April 18 liturgy in St. John Lateran held by a group of around 30 Anglican clergymen. As LifeSiteNews has reported, the group of Anglicans posted numerous pictures online, evidencing their usage of the altar of the cathedra for a “Mass.”

READ: Freemason Anglican bishop celebrates ‘Mass’ in papal basilica with Protestant clergy

In fact, a group of about 50 priests, accompanied by their bishop, all belonging to the Anglican communion, celebrated in the ‘cathedral of Rome,’ in contravention of canonical norms. Monsignor Di Tora also explained that the unfortunate episode was caused by a lack of communication.

The Anglican clergy were led by Bishop Jonathan Baker, who has led the suffragan Anglican see of Fulham since 2013. The amassed clergy are currently in Rome for a tri-annual retreat and are based at the Villa Palazzola, which is owned by the Venerable English College (VEC) in Rome — the Catholic seminary for England that dates to 1579.

The Anglican clergymen outwardly appear more traditional than many of their fellow Anglicans, and the suffragan diocese of Fulham states on paper that it opposes the Anglican ordination of women. 

However, as Matt Gaspers, managing editor of Catholic Family News, has noted, this stance has not prevented the Fulham Anglicans from welcoming “Bishop” Sarah Mullally – the royally-appointed bishop of London – at their recent Chrism “Mass.” 

Not only is Baker an Anglican, he is divorced and “re-married.” Baker also spent twenty years as a high-ranking member of the Freemasons. 

When he was announced as an Anglican bishop in 2011, he defended his membership of the secretive group as “an organization that is wholly supportive of the Church.” Just days later, he claimed he had left the group – after having spent decades as a Mason, and having entered via the notorious ceremony which warns that those who break the “the oaths of allegiance will have their throat slit and their tongue torn out before being buried in the sand.” 

READ: Queen Elizabeth’s former chaplain explains why he became Catholic

What actually happened in the Lateran?

It is still not fully known how the Anglican clergy came to be allowed to celebrate what they called a “Mass” in the ancient basilica. LifeSite has still not received an answer to its questions about how the group was allowed to use the church, or if the Catholic basilica’s sacred vessels were used by the men.

The official statement simply argued the ceremony was “caused by a lack of communication.”

There has been no further statement about the subject of confusion, or who had made the error. It could be argued that Roman Catholic officials involved did not issue a simple rejection to the Anglicans, since such a clear response would hardly had been so entirely misunderstood as to then lead to the Anglicans saying a “Mass.”

Other commentators have suggested that the Lateran clergy actually saw no issue with allowing the Anglicans to hold a “Mass,” and had freely granted permission. Eric Sammons, editor of Crisis Magazine, suggested the Catholic clergy were only issuing the apology due to the widespread reports on the ceremony. 

Another aspect to consider is that priests are technically required to be able to present their celebret – the proof of valid ordination and subsequent authorization to offer Mass – in order to say Mass in churches not of their diocese. Some churches in Rome even warn priests to present the document when requesting to say Mass. 

It is thus strange how the group of Anglican clergy were nevertheless permitted to celebrate a liturgy in the ancient Basilica – clearly such checks were not enforced. Such an event further highlights the peculiar nature of the rigour of the restrictions issued by the Vatican against those Catholics devoted to the traditional liturgy of the Church – since while Anglicans are somehow able to offer “Mass” in St. John Lateran, traditional Masses are outlawed from parish churches around the world.