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Shrine of St. Jean-Marie Vianney, Ars, FranceShutterstock

ARS, France (LifeSiteNews) — The traditional Latin Mass (TLM) may no longer be celebrated in the main basilica at the shrine of St. John (Jean-Marie) Vianney in Ars, in central France, by decision of the local bishop, Pascal Roland. Photos have recently been circulated on social media showing a curt notice affixed to a door – presumably in the sacristy of the church, as happened in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome a few years back – which reads, translated (bold text as appears in the original French): 

Celebration of Mass in the Shrine of Ars

  1. Priest who wish to celebrate Mass or hear confessions must produce a valid CELEBRET and prove their identity.
  2. The Mass can be celebrated in Latin and in any vernacular language, but only with the Roman Missal in its presently approved form.
  3. Exception: a priest can be admitted to celebrate with the old Missal only of he is alone and only in the crypt.
  4. An offering from you is welcome to help cover material expenses for this service.

This is a temporary rule. As of December 31st, 2023, even this reluctant permission will be withdrawn, according to a letter sent to all priests of the diocese at the end of last year. When 2023 draws to a close, not a single visiting priest will be permitted to celebrate the Traditional Mass in any church or sanctuary of the diocese of Belley-Ars; a very limited number of local exceptions will also be nearing withdrawal. 

Bishop Roland has enthusiastically implemented  Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis custodes in his diocese. This papal document severely restricts the celebration of the Mass according to the Roman Missal of Saint Pius V.  

The bishop’s decision is a cruel and petty blow to the many priests attached to the Traditional Mass who have a special veneration for the Curé d’Ars, the model of Catholic priesthood and patron saint of parish priests. No longer are they able to say Mass at the main altar over which St. Jean-Marie Vianney’s body lies exposed in a glass reliquary.  

No longer are they able to offer Mass in the shrine for groups of pilgrims, or in the presence of their family or close friends. It seems that they are not even allowed the assistance of an altar server, as they may celebrate only “alone” in the crypt where they have been relegated as modern-day lepers. 

In the village where St. Jean-Marie Vianney became one of the Church’s greatest saints and led countless faithful to God, celebrating Mass according to the traditional Missal in the Lyonnais rite, the prayers, ritual, and gestures of the Traditional Latin Mass may neither be seen nor heard. 

Like a contagious virus, the Mass of Ages must be kept in the dark and secrecy of a crypt closed to all – perhaps to ensure that a passing pilgrim is not “infected” by its appeal. 

Adding insult to injury, Bishop Roland wants these despised priests to pay for the privilege of being banished to the lower regions in solitary confinement. 

It could be argued that the TLM as codified by St. Pius V is  in force insofar as it can still be used under Traditionis Custodes, albeit under narrow conditions, that is, because it is a “Roman Missal” under an “approved form.” However, the spirit and implementation of the motu proprio clearly aim at outlawing the “old Missal,” so the bishop’s intent is only too plain. 

WATCH: Priest: Africans have a strong desire for the Latin Mass

Last October 22 – symbolically, on the feast day of Pope John XXIII – Bishop Roland sent a letter of information to all the priests of his diocese asking them to “accept with humility and loyalty” both Traditionis custodes of July 16, 2021 and the apostolic letter Desiderio Desideravi that Pope Francis issued a year later on June 29, 2022. “It is an act of the Magisterium,” stressed the bishop, that must be welcomed “if we recognize ourselves as authentic children of the Catholic Church.” 

He quoted from Traditionis custodes saying that the liturgical books promulgated by Paul VI and John Paul II “are the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.” 

“In recent years, we have experienced an unusual situation. Normally, when a new rite is promulgated, the old form automatically disappears (as was the case with the rite of Saint Pius V). Out of pastoral benevolence, successive popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have exceptionally tolerated a temporary coexistence of the two forms to ease the transition from one to the other,” Roland wrote. 

This is not true: when St. Pius V codified and unified the Roman Rite, he did not ban the traditional forms that had been in legitimate and continual use for over two hundred years. This is precisely why St. Jean-Marie Vianney used the “Lyonnais” Missal: it was never abrogated. Examples abound, from the Dominican Rite or the Ambrosian Rite (in Milan) to the Braga Rite in Portugal. These have their unique aspects, but each in its own way honors the same traditional expression of the faith as the Roman Missal. 

Condemning those who “have sought to maintain and even promote the old form,” Roland made the following “practical arrangement”:  

“It is no longer possible to use liturgical books published before the Second Vatican Council for the celebration of the sacraments in parishes and chapels in the diocese of Belley-Ars. A few priests have obtained the faculty to celebrate according to the rite of the 1962 Roman Missal in their own churches and oratories, or for a particular mission entrusted to them by their bishop. Elsewhere, they cannot do so without the consent of the local bishop. I do not grant them this faculty in the diocese of Belley-Ars.” (Emphasis added.) 

Temporary permission, with a number of strings attached, was given for a single church in the diocese: 

“As a gesture of indulgence to those who need a little more time to adopt the Roman rite promulgated by St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II, I authorize the celebration of Mass according to the 1962 missal in the sole church of St. Martin de Coligny by Father Laurent Goy for a further three years. In order to demonstrate unambiguously and very concretely that the people taking part in this liturgy do not exclude the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform, the precepts of the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium, in communion with the other bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Lyon, I ask that, starting next Advent, on the 1st Sunday of the month Mass be celebrated exclusively with the current missal (in Latin or in the vernacular, facing the congregation or with the back to the congregation). The sacraments of baptism, marriage, penance and the anointing of the sick will always be celebrated according to the rituals in force.” 

This October 2022 letter formally announced the specific restrictions for the shrine of Ars that have now caught public attention: 

“The rule is the same as elsewhere in the diocese: all sacraments are celebrated according to the current ritual. They may be celebrated in Latin or in any vernacular language by any priest of the diocese, or by an external priest who has produced a valid celebret. As an exception, until December 31, 2023, a single priest may be allowed to celebrate a mass without a congregation, using the 1962 missal, exclusively in the crypt of the basilica church.” 

In the age of “listening” and “inclusion,” there is no space in Ars for the faithful who are attached to the TLM. By the end of the year, traditional priests will no longer be treated as lepers there, but as outcasts. 

Bishop Roland is on his way to becoming one of the harshest and most exact implementers of Traditionis Custodes in France, where many other bishops are showing great pastoral flexibility on the issue. His October 2022 letter went to far as to suggest that those who remain faithful to the age-old liturgy of the Church are somehow not in communion with the Pope. 

He wrote: 

Desiring that we live in effective communion with Pope Francis, successor of Peter, I count on your understanding and loyalty to accept the objective and universal rules. I count on your sense of responsibility not to encourage the spread of any practices that run counter to the objective communion demanded by the Holy Father. Subjectivism, individualism, and consumerism threaten to divide us, whereas it is urgent to announce the Good News by giving witness to fraternal communion. Thank you all for praying for unity and doing all you can to promote it. As Pope Francis writes: ‘Let us abandon our polemics to listen together to what the Spirit is saying to the Church. Let us safeguard our communion. Let us continue to be astonished at the beauty of the Liturgy. The Paschal Mystery has been given to us. Let us allow ourselves to be embraced by the desire that the Lord continues to have to eat His Passover with us. All this under the gaze of Mary, Mother of the Church.’

And how trite that sounds at a time when the Traditional Latin Mass attracts so many thousands of young people and families in France, while regular Catholic practice overall has dropped to under 2 or 3 percent! 

READ: Bishop Strickland: Cardinals don’t deserve the red hat if they contradict the Catholic faith

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Jeanne Smits has worked as a journalist in France since 1987 after obtaining a Master of Arts in Law. She formerly directed the French daily Présent and was editor-in-chief of an all-internet French-speaking news site called She writes regularly for a number of Catholic journals (Monde & vie, L’Homme nouveau, Reconquête…) and runs a personal pro-life blog. In addition, she is often invited to radio and TV shows on alternative media. She is vice-president of the Christian and French defense association “AGRIF.” She is the French translator of The Dictator Pope by Henry Sire and Christus Vincit by Bishop Schneider, and recently contributed to the Bref examen critique de la communion dans la main about Communion in the hand. She is married and has three children, and lives near Paris.