Featured Image
Cardinal Raymond Burke, at a conference Oct 3, 2023.Michael Haynes

ROME (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Raymond Burke has noted that despite Pope Francis’ restrictions on the traditional liturgy, attendance at the Old Rite is “getting bigger and bigger” as the rite is “integral to the life of the Church.”

“This form of the Roman rite has been an extraordinary blessing through so many centuries,” said the American cardinal about the traditional liturgy, otherwise known as the Latin Mass or Usus Antiquior. 

He noted that per Traditionis Custodes, issued by Pope Francis in July 2021, celebration of the Latin Mass “has become more and more difficult due to the new legislation in this matter.” The restriction, said Cardinal Burke “makes so many difficulties for the celebration according to the Usus Antiquior, according to the older use of the Roman rite.”

READ: Pope restricts ‘divisive’ Traditional Latin Mass, says 52-yr-old Novus Ordo is ‘unique expression’ of Church’s liturgy

Speaking to Italian Catholic group Fede e Cultura in Easter week, the 75-year-old prelate commented widely about the enduring attraction the traditional Mass has for Catholics of all ages despite the papal restrictions. 

“From what I see,” he stated, “directly visiting various parts of the world, also from what I hear, this liturgy, this form of the sacred liturgy, with all its beauty and with its way of reflecting the richness, the profundity of our faith, continues to attract, as it is easy and understandable, so many people.”

Cardinal Burke, who regularly and publicly celebrates the traditional liturgy along with offering ordinations in it for traditional priestly societies, added that the size of congregations at the ancient liturgy is continually growing:

The congregations, in fact, in the apostolates for the celebration of the traditional liturgy, as we say, are getting bigger and bigger, they are congregation of people of all ages, but what is quite impressive is the number of young families, with lots of children, and also the young people, not the married ones, the ones who are looking.

Since Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis and the staunchly anti-traditionalist prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Arthur Roche, have implemented a number of successive restrictive measures on the ancient liturgy.

But Cardinal Burke attested that if the intention with all these texts was to somehow “decrease the attraction” of the traditional liturgy, then it had “the exactly opposite effect.” The cardinal stated:

If the intention with the latest legislation Traditionis Custodes and other documents which followed it was to discourage or to decrease the attraction of the holy liturgy according to the Usus Antiquior, it had, I would say, the exactly opposite effect.

“This,” he added, “should not be surprising, one has to think that a form of the Roman rite which has nourished so profoundly and produced so many saints, the declared saints, even let’s say hidden saints, it is not possible that this rite be cancelled, that it be eliminated from the life of the Church.”

“This form of the rite is integral to the life of the Church,” he closed.

Cardinal Burke’s criticism of the restrictions has been consistent ever since Traditionis Custodes emerged in July 2021. Writing in the immediate aftermath of the document, he called it a “severe and revolutionary action.”

He noted that the traditional liturgy is not something that can be excluded from the “valid expression of the lex orandi.”

“It is a question of an objective reality of divine grace which cannot be changed by a mere act of the will of even the highest ecclesiastical authority,” wrote the cardinal in 2021.

When asked directly by this reporter as to why he had restricted the traditional Mass, Pope Francis replied briefly to “Read the motu proprio; everything is there for you.”

READ: EXCLUSIVE: Pope Francis defends Latin Mass restrictions – ‘Read the motu proprio’

Subsequent moves after Traditionis Custodes to censure the growth and spread of the traditional liturgy have since emerged from the Vatican. These include Cardinal Roche’s Responsa ad dubia, which ushered in fresh bans on the ancient Mass and sacraments, along with warnings that priests who do not cooperate sufficiently in Novus Ordo liturgies would have permission to offer the traditional liturgy stripped away.

The list also includes Roche’s arguably canonically illegal efforts to prevent bishops from exempting priests from Traditionis Custodes – in which he was subsequently supported by the pope directly – along with the prohibition on bishops from independently establishing new groups of the faithful in their dioceses, which had been a move widely used to foster new communities devoted to the traditional liturgy.

Cardinal Arthur Roche entering Synod on Synodality meetings, Oct 2023.

Tyler, Texas, emeritus Bishop Joseph Strickland even attested that his forced removal was due in part to his refusal to implement Traditionis Custodes in the diocese.

However, numbers continue to grow year by year, with traditional communities such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) and the Institute of Christ the King continuing to see record admissions since July 2021.

This was noted recently by Cardinal Walter Brandmüller in an essay attacking Germany’s Synodal Way. Citing such orders by name, Cardinal Brandmüller wrote that their seminaries, “which are characterized by their love of the liturgy and the Church, are enjoying a lively and growing life. They are at the active service of true renewal, renewal in the truth. Thus, despite everything, the Church lives in those places where faithful and zealous priests work.”