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Cardinal Raymond Burke confects the eucharist in Croatia, Oct. 23, 2016. John-Henry Westen/

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ROME, March 15, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Raymond Burke called for recent directions from Pope Francis’ Secretariat of State that bans private Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to be “rescinded since they are “contrary to” and in “direct violation of” universal Church law.

“For the sake of the Catholic faith and for the good order of the Sacred Liturgy, the highest and most perfect expression of the Church’s life in Christ, the document in question should be rescinded immediately, that is, before its supposed effective date of March 22nd next,” wrote Burke in a March 13 statement published on his website.

The Vatican’s Secretariat of State circulated a note on March 12 with details of new dispositions restricting all “individual” Masses in Saint Peter’s, with special, even more restrictive measures for the traditional rite.

The note, which was unsigned, stated among other things that “individual celebrations are suppressed.”

According to the new rules, all priests and faithful who come to daily Mass in the Basilica will be required to join “concelebrated” Masses at fixed times between 7 and 9 a.m. in only two locations: the Chapel of the Choir (“Cappella del Coro”) that is situated halfway down the left-hand nave, opposite the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament, and usually closed by a wrought-iron grille, and the Altar of the Chair of Saint Peter, behind the main altar in the apse of the Basilica. Priests who prefer celebrating Mass according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite will be confined to four time slots between 7 and 9 a.m. at only one altar: the Clementine Chapel of the Crypt.

Cardinal Burke said the new rules cause the faithful, and above all, priests, the “deepest concerns.”

Burke first took issue with the fact that the document is unsigned and the fact that the Secretariat of State — where Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra is substitute secretary for general affairs in the Vatican Secretariat of State — is “not competent for the liturgical discipline of the Church and, in particular, for the liturgical discipline at the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican.”

“While the document appears to be authentic, that is, not forged, it cannot be retained to be a document containing valid legislation for the Sacred Liturgy,” the cardinal wrote.

He then went on to defend priests who celebrate Masses alone, something that the document appears to target.

“The document imposes concelebration upon priests who wish to offer the Holy Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica, which is contrary to universal Church law and which unjustly conditions the primary duty of the individual priest to offer the Holy Mass daily for the salvation of the world (can. 902),” wrote the cardinal.

“In what church more than in the Basilica of Saint Peter would a priest desire to offer the Holy Mass, which is the most perfect and fullest way in which he carries out his priestly mission? If an individual priest wishes to offer the Holy Mass in the Basilica, once the directives in question are in force, he will be constrained to concelebrate, in violation of his freedom to offer the Holy Mass individually,” he added.

Burke said that the whole Church benefits spiritually from every Mass that is said, whether with people attending or without.

“Regarding the individual offering of the Holy Mass, it must be observed that it is not only a question of a right of the priest but also of great spiritual fruit for the whole Church, since the infinite merits of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are more greatly and widely applied in a manner befitting our finite and temporal nature,” he wrote.

“It is helpful to reflect upon the teaching of the Council of Trent, regarding the situation of a priest who offers the Holy Mass without any member of the faithful receiving Holy Communion. Regarding the participation of the faithful at the Holy Mass, the Council teaches: ‘The holy council would certainly like the faithful present at every Mass to communicate in it not only by spiritual devotion but also by sacramental reception of the Eucharist, so that the fruits of this most holy sacrifice could be theirs more fully.’”

“It goes on to state: ‘But, if this does not always happen, the council does not for that reason condemn as private and illicit Masses (can. 8) in which only the priest communicates. Rather, it approves and commends them, for they too should be considered truly communal Masses, partly because the people communicate spiritually in them and partly because they are celebrated by a public minister of the Church, not for his own good alone, but for all the faithful who belong to the body of Christ’ (Session XXII, Chapter 6). It should be further observed that a priest never offers the Holy Mass alone, even if there is no one else physically present, for the angels and saints assist at every offering of the Holy Mass (can. 903),” he added.

Cardinal Burke also took issue with the document’s banning of private celebrations of Mass in the Basilica according to the Extraordinary Form as a “direct violation of universal Church law.”

The cardinal called on Catholic laity and priests to express their concerns to the Pope.

“Given the gravity of the situation represented by the document in question, it is my hope that many of the Christian faithful for whom the Basilica of Saint Peter is, in a particular sense, their mother church, and, above all, many priests from throughout the world will make known to Pope Francis and to his Secretariat of State their strong objection to the document in question,” he concluded.