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Cardinal Joseph ZenClaire Chretien / LifeSiteNews

July 27, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Joseph Zen last week joined a chorus of high-level critics of Pope Francis’s recent motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, saying that the document “hurt the hearts of many good people.”

Traditionis Custodes, issued July 16, restricts celebration of Traditional Latin Mass, purporting to remove the “Mass of the Ages” from the Roman Rite altogether. The motu proprio contradicts and abrogates Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which granted universal approval for priests to celebrate Holy Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962.

Cardinal Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong and former member of the Congregation for Divine Worship, sharply criticized Francis’ revision, which he described as “severe” and “a blow” in a blog post last Wednesday. The cardinal noted “an incredible ease” with which Traditionis Custodes and the Pope’s accompanying letter to bishops presumed to link devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass to outright rejection of the Second Vatican Council.

The “many tendentious generalizations in the documents hurt more than expected the hearts of many good people, who never gave the slightest cause to be suspected of not accepting the liturgical reform of the Council, much less not accepting the Council ‘Tout court,’” Zen said.

He pointed to what he called “an incredible ease (or tendentiousness) in linking the desire to use the vetus ritus to the non-acceptance of the ritus novus” and “in associating the non-acceptance of the liturgical reform (which often concerns mainly the way in which it was carried out with its many serious abuses) with a total and profound rejection of the Council itself.”

In his letter accompanying Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis claimed that use of the 1962 Roman Missal “is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but the Vatican Council II itself.” The Pope cited no concrete evidence, though he referred to a questionnaire circulated last year by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to bishops’ conferences regarding the implementation of Summorum Pontificum.

Zen revealed in his post last week that he did not know about the questionnaire or the responses to it, and suspected “much misunderstanding (or perhaps even manipulation) in the process.”

“It came as a bitter surprise to me personally that the ‘widespread’ consultation did not reach me, a cardinal and once a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,” he said, noting that he had overseen the implementation of the 2007 motu proprio as bishop of Hong Kong.

In a previous blog post in June, Zen had remarked, “I cannot deny, in my experience of Hong Kong, the very good that came from the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and from the celebration of the Tridentine Mass.”

“I felt such reverence, I was so fascinated (and still am!) by the beauty of Gregorian chant, that I think that experience has nourished my vocation to the priesthood, as for so many others,” he wrote. “The Tridentine Mass is not divisive; on the contrary, it unites us to our brothers and sisters of all ages, to the saints and martyrs of every time, to those who have fought for their faith and who have found in it inexhaustible spiritual nourishment.”

Though the cardinal anticipated forthcoming restrictions on the Latin Mass in his post last month, he said on Wednesday that “the blow has been no less severe because it was foreseen.”

“The problem is not ‘which rite do people prefer?’ but is ‘why don’t they go to Mass anymore?’” Zen added. “Certain surveys show that half of the Christian population in Europe no longer believes in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, no longer believes in eternal life!”

“Certainly we do not blame all this on the liturgical reform, but we just want to say that the problem is much deeper, we cannot evade the question: ‘Has not the formation of faith been lacking?’ ‘Has not the great work of the Council been wasted?’” he asked.

“Isn’t the root of evil that attitude of believing that everything can now be changed?” he continued. “Is it not that attitude of believing that this Council erases all previous ones and that the Tridentine Council is like the dirt accumulated on the ‘last judgement’ of the Sistine Chapel (as a ‘liturgist’ in our diocese put it)?”

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LifeSiteNews will hand-deliver this petition to the Holy See, recording the moment traditional Catholics from around the world stood up for the Traditional Latin Mass.

Pope Francis has issued a new decree, "Traditiones Custodes," severely restricting the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM).

Please SIGN and SHARE this petition with other Catholics, and ask the Pope to reconsider this new and divisive Motu Proprio.

Pope Francis' decree clamps down hard on the TLM. In it, he effectively does away with Pope Benedict's protection of it, handing bishops in every diocese the right to suppress it, while demanding new priests get permission from their bishop and the Vatican to offer the Mass of the Ages. 

As Catholics who value Tradition and know the place of the Magisterium in safeguarding the Deposit of Faith, it is time to speak up and have our voices heard

Francis has decried rigidity and intolerance for years, but now is showing intolerance and rigidity himself by forcing his very narrow understanding of liturgy on one of the true sources of good fruit in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.

Our Lord said that "a bad tree cannot bear good fruit", and yet we see more and more souls drawn to Christ through the TLM, with marriages dedicated to God and open to many children, and vocations also abounding in traditional seminaries, orders and priestly societies.

Indeed, the Traditional Latin Mass has been a source of unity for the Catholic Church for more than 1500 years, producing great saints, repentant sinners, and souls won for Christ across the world. *Read below how Benedict XVI decried attacks against the TLM and its adherents.

To attempt to restrict the Traditional Latin Mass, as a new generation are rediscovering the treasures of God's Church, will inevitably cause further division and hurt among the faithful, risking the loss of some souls who will regretfully turn away

Souls are now at stake with this Motu Proprio, as some will drift away from the Deposit of Faith in disillusionment, while others that are far from God will never be touched by the profound beauty and reverence found in the Traditional Latin Mass. 

Please SIGN and SHARE this petition to Pope Francis, urging him to reconsider his decision, not least for the good of souls and the glory of God, and making sure as many cardinals support the TLM as possible. 

Click "Show Petition Text" on the right to read the letter to Pope Francis.

Finally, please pray, fast and do penance for the salvation of souls, including that of our shepherds, during this turbulent time in Church history.


'BREAKING: Pope Francis abrogates Pope Benedict’s universal permission for Old Mass' -

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

* Pope Benedict XVI (Spirit of the Liturgy, 2000):

"For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 [the older Latin Mass] should be lifted. Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church’s whole past. How can one trust her at present if things are that way?"

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Zen similarly condemned divergence from “the immutable and perennial Magisterium” in a letter he joined in May lamenting the rise of “schism and heresy” in the Church in Germany, calling on Pope Francis to intervene. The Hong Kong cardinal has likewise been a top critic of the Pope’s secretive deal with the communist government of China — an arrangement which he has said is fostering a “schismatic Church” in his home country.

On Wednesday, Zen also said that Traditionis Custodes “obviously sees not only irregularities in the execution of Summorum Pontificum, but considers the very existence of a parallel rite to be an evil.”

“Don’t … § 5 and § 6 of Art 3, Art 4 and 5 clearly wish for the death of the groups [devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass]?” he continued, referring to provisions banning the establishment of new groups and requiring priests to seek permission from bishops before celebrating Mass with the 1962 Roman Missal.

Zen concluded by admonishing the people opposed to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Vatican, saying, “But, even in that case, can’t the anti-Ratzinger gentlemen of the Vatican be patient to allow the Tridentine Mass to die only after the death of Benedict XVI instead of inflicting such humiliation on the venerable Pope Emeritus?”


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