Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
How the Goal of the Eucharistic Congresses Changed
Taken from here [slightly adapted - emphasis mine].

In his speech at the Assisi Congress in 1956, Fr. Josef Jungmann presented the Mass under two main headings. He characterized the Mass both as an assembly of the people, with the priest as their leader, and as a celebration of the Last Supper, with the main emphasis on the “community meal aspect” (la forme d’un repas en commun”). (1)

These two points, he insisted, were the key to understanding the Mass. Given the influence he exerted over the creation of the Novus Ordo, the definition of the Mass found in Article 7 of the 1969 General Instruction was a foregone conclusion.

The Groundbreaking 1960 Eucharistic Congress in Munich

In 1960, when preparations for Vatican II were already under way, Jungmann was given, through the instrumentality of Card. Joseph Wendel of Munich, the opportunity to put his “key” ideas into practice and display them on the world stage. The papal legate Card. Gustavo Testa, 27 Cardinals, 430 Bishops from around the world, approximately 8,000 priests and over a million faithful attended the event. Representatives from other religions were also present, as we shall see later, for “ecumenical” purposes.

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Millions of people exposed to the novelties of the 1960 Munich Congress; below, priests descend the 'altar-island' to distribute Communion among the people

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International Eucharistic Congress 1960Fortunately, the background to the Congress was comprehensively documented, and records exist in the holdings of the Archdiocese of Munich, in contemporary newspaper reports (both German and English) and in the published histories of the events. From these we can gain some insight into the thinking that lay behind the organization of the Congress and the role that Jungmann played in making it the revolutionary event that would change the face of Eucharistic Congresses to this day.

A Hi-Jacked Congress

Before looking more closely into the nature of these changes, we will find it useful to study the archival sources that give detailed accounts of the activities of those who organized the event, their meetings, committee members, letters and notes, their hopes and reminiscences. From this documentation we will see, among other things, an enthusiastic endorsement by the young Fr. Joseph Ratzinger – he would have been 33 years old at the time.

First, we gather that the Munich Congress started to be planned more than five years in advance by Card. Wendel during a private audience that Pope Pius XII granted to him. Records show that in 1955, on his way back from the International Eucharistic Congress in Rio de Janeiro, the Cardinal made a stopover in Rome to ask the Pope if he would choose Munich as the place of the next World Congress. That honor, however, had already been allocated to the Portuguese Colony of Mozambique, (2) but Pius XII, under pressure from the German Hierarchy, granted the opportunity to Munich instead. (3)

In 1959, various committees were established to organize the Congress but, it was revealed, all important decisions were taken by Card. Wendel in consultation with a few key collaborators; these included both Jungmann and Guardini, (4) who played a major role in planning the liturgical part of the event.

Jungmann invented the ‘mega-Mass’

The main purpose of International Eucharistic Congresses, since their inception in 1881, (5) had always been to glorify the Holy Eucharist and to bear public witness to the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. That is why they were characterized by displays of pageantry and dignity in which the procession of the Blessed Sacrament, comprising hundreds of thousands of people, was the most conspicuous feature.

And even though they were open-air events attended by vast crowds, Mass and Benediction were conducted with immense reverence while the people knelt on the ground. In order to safeguard reverence for the Eucharist, Holy Communion was not distributed among the crowds. (6)

But all that was about to undergo a radical transformation in 1960 when Jungmann and his colleagues on Card. Wendel’s Committee planned the Munich Congress in such a way that the whole emphasis lay not in adoration of the Eucharist, but in the celebration of the community.

He afterwards explained: “It is not the Eucharist itself that is the focus of the holy event, but the People of God.” (7)

To reflect this new orientation, a huge “altar island” was constructed in the Theresienwiese (8) for the people to gather round. The Epistle and Gospel were read in German only. Receiving Communion was the obvious climax of the event, while neither reverence nor concern for rubrics was observed. For various eye-witness accounts concur that “a high proportion” of the million attendees “received Holy Communion from hundreds of priests who moved among the wooden benches” and wove their way through the crowds. (9) (Read here and here)

Card. Wendel’s Planned Self-glorification

Fr. Richard Egenter, who was one of Wendel’s hand-picked members of the steering committee for the Congress (see note 4), stated:

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Card. Wendell, eager for the spotlight at the Munich event

“He [Wendel] saw it as a great moment (Sternstunde), a grace of God’s call, for his archdiocese to do the world a unique service. What had been done in decades of patient and dignified liturgical renewal for German-speaking Catholics should represent the model for the universal Church.” (10)

Card. Wendel celebrated the opening Mass facing the people at the Odeonsplatz, the square in front of the Feldherrnhalle (the Field Marshalls’ Hall), which was still fresh in the memory of the citizens of Munich as the former “spiritual” centre of the Nazi regime. Hitler had turned the Feldherrnhalle into a memorial for members of the Nazi party; and the Odeonsplatz was the scene for SS parades and commemorative rallies. (11)

From this we gather that Card.Wendel, eager for national glory and with an eye for the main chance, was apparently starry-eyed at the prospect of putting Munich on the world stage in matters liturgical. The German Bishops joined him in rhapsodizing about the “positive results” of the event. (12)

Jungmann as the Liturgical Führer

But Jungmann stole his thunder, for it was his name, not Wendel’s, which became permanently associated with the radically new concept of World Eucharistic Congresses. This was officially recognized by the Vatican:

“The first Congress to benefit in a significant way from the influence of the liturgical movement was that of Munich in 1960. From that time on, thanks to the intuition of Josef Andreas Jungmann, Eucharistic Congresses took the form of a Statio [a community gathering]” (13)

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A table-altar with modern decor facing the people

Jungmann called his brainchild a Statio Orbis – a “meeting-place of the world” where all were expected to share a communal meal as a sign of unity. This, then, would be the future of the liturgy, as confirmed by the Vatican in 1967:

“In the celebration of the Eucharist, a sense of community should be fostered so that all will feel united to their brothers and sisters in the communion of the local and universal Church, and even in a certain way with all humanity.” (14)

A Kairos for the Church

The Munich Congress was the opportune and decisive moment or kairos when Church authorities succumbed to the utopian fantasy about the “brotherhood of man” and made it the basis of a new, desacralized liturgy that would replace the traditionally God-centred worship.

The young Fr. Ratzinger stated at the time that Jungmann “has created a new model for the Eucharistic Congresses” that was “revolutionary for the whole Church” as well as being a “preparation for the [upcoming] Council.” (15) [emphasis added in the original]

And Pope John XXIII reportedly described the Congress as “a rehearsal for the Council.”

It is hardly a coincidence that the two conspicuous hallmarks of the Congress, namely, “the gathering” and “the Supper” were also the two defining characteristics of the Novus Ordo, according to its General Instruction of 1969.


1. J. A. Jungmann, ‘La Pastorale, Clef de L’Histoire Liturgique’ (The Pastoral Approach, Key to the History of the Liturgy) La Maison-Dieu, nn. 47-48, 1956, p. 50
2. Having been turned down by the Holy See as the site of next World Congress, Mozambique held its own National Eucharistic Congress in 1956.
3. Joseph Wendel, Der Wahrheit und der Liebe (Truth and Love), Würzburg: Arena-Verlag, 1961, p. 63; Peter Pfister, ‘Zwei Hauptfiguren des Eucharistischen Weltkongresses: Erzbischof Joseph Kardinal Wendel und Weihbischof Johannes Neuhäusler’ (The Two Principal Characters in the Eucharistic Congress: Archbishop Joseph Cardinal Wendel and Auxiliary Bishop John Neuhäusler), in Für das Leben der Welt. Der Eucharistische Weltkongress 1960 in München (For the Life of the World. The 1960 International Eucharistic Congress in Munich), Schriften des Archivs des Erzbistums München und Freising 14 (Documents of the Archives of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising), Regensburg, 2010, p. 47.
4. The others were the Auxiliary Bishop of Munich, Johannes Neuhäusler, Franz von Tattenbach, S.J., and the German theologian, Fr. Richard Egenter. See Peter Pfister, Gemeinschaft erleben – Eucharistie feiern Der Eucharistische Weltkongress 1960 in München, (Experience Community. Celebrate the Eucharist. The International Eucharistic Congress in Munich 1960), Archives of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, p. 15.
5. The First Eucharistic Congress was instituted in 1881 in Lille France, by a lay woman, Emilie Tamisier (1834-1910). Since her childhood, she had a life-long devotion to the Holy Eucharist and had organized pilgrimages to the places where Eucharistic miracles had taken place. Her work was supported by St. Pierre Julian Eymard, the founder of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers and Brothers, and approved by Pope Leo XIII.
6. At the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 1932, for example, where about a million people attended the closing Mass, only one person partook of the Sacrament, namely, the celebrant, the Papal Legate Card.Lorenzo Lauri.
7. “Nicht die Eucharistie selbst ist das Ziel der göttlichen Heilsveranstaltungen, sondern das Gottes volk.” . Kongressdokumentation Statio Orbis, 1961, (Congress Records) J. A. Jungmann, Statio Orbis Catholici - Heute und Morgen (The Gathering-place for the World’s Catholics – Today and Tomorrow), in R. Egenter, O. Pimer, H. Hofbauer (Eds.), Statio Orbis. Eucharistischer Weltkongreß 1960 in München, 2 vols., Munich, 1962, vol. 1, p. 81.
8. A large fairground historically associated with the wedding of Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen which took place there in 1810. It is the site of the annual Oktoberfest, the world’s biggest beer-drinking festival.
9. Michael Derrick, “The Eucharistic Congress at Munich,” The Tablet, August, 20, 1960.
10. “Er sah darin eine “Sternstunde” seiner Erzdiözese, einen gnadenhaften Anruf Gottes, mit seiner Erzdiözese der Welt einen einmaligen Dienst zu tun. Was in jahrzehntelanger geduldiger und gediegener liturgischer Erneuerungsarbeit von Katholiken deutscher Zunge geleistet worden war”. Apud R. Egenter, “Der Kardinal und der 37. Eucharistische Weltkongress” (The Cardinal and the 37th International Eucharistic Congress), Josef Kardinal Wendel, Der Wahrheit und der Liebe (Truth and Love), Würzburg: Arena-Verlag, 1961, p. 64.
11. In 1923 it was the site of the brief battle that ended Hitler’s so-called “Beer Hall Putsch,” his failed attempt to take over Munich as a preliminary to overthrowing the Weimar Republic.
12. They saw it as proof that “active and intelligent participation of the faithful” in the Mass was better than “processions and devotional exercises” and as “a convincing example of that universal fraternal charity that must be the necessary fruit of Mass and Communion.” See Augustine Cornides, “The German Scene,” Worship, vol. 35 n. IV 1960-1961, p. 257.
13. Piero Marini, The Shape, Significance and Ecclesial Impact of Eucharistic Congresses, June 9, 2009.
14. Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, 1967, § 18. However, the concern for a supposed unity in communal activity overlooked the fact that the authentic supernatural community of the Church can only be achieved through the union of each individual soul with Christ; and a precondition for that union is prayer and contemplation in an atmosphere of mystery, holiness and reverence.
15. The Catholic Academy of Bavaria, Der Eucharistische Weltkongress in MünchenErinnerung, Reflexion, Auftrag (The International Congress in Munich 50 Years Ago, Reminiscence, Reflection, Mission), July 20, 2012.
16. “Eine Generalprobe für das Konzil, apud Theodor Schnitzler, ‘Die Gestaltung der Eucharistiefeier im Kongress’ (The Design of the Eucharistic Celebration at the Congress), in R. Egenter, O. Pimer, H. Hofbauer, “Der Kardinal und der 37. Eucharistische Weltkongress”, vol. 1, p. 107
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
How Revolutionary Was the Munich Congress?
Taken from here [slightly adapted - emphasis mine].

What took place at the 1960 Munich Congress can be described as the first “mega-Mass” in History. Whereas previous events of this nature were characterized by solemnity, pomp and sacrality, as befitting the homage due to the Blessed Sacrament, (1) the main emphasis in Munich was on the people present.

Records show that the liturgy departed noticeably from the traditional lex orandi in that it was “specially designed” (speziell gestaltet) so as to be a “lively celebration” (lebendige Mitfeier) by the people. (2) This was confirmed by the young Fr. Ratzinger who was also present at the Congress; (3) he described it as a preparation for the Council, and a milestone replacing the previous “spectator liturgy” (“schauenden Anbetung”) with a dynamic performance. (4)

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The first mega-Mass at the Munich Congress 1960; below, the Mass and the people being filmed

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Eye-witness accounts reveal that, besides the ubiquitous singing of the Mass by the people, (5) they cheered and clapped for the celebrities; at the Offertory “the hosts were carried up to the altar in a hundred big baskets”; (6) and everyone held hands at the Our Father. (7) None of this should come as a surprise, for Card. Joseph Wendel had for years been committed to liturgical reform in his diocese. (8)

This contrasted with the solemn High Mass that opened the Council on October 11, 1962. Fr. Josef Jungmann, who was present, was disappointed that his dreams for a “community Mass” had not been put into action. He complained later: “The opening did not please me. ... they haven’t learned anything from the statio orbis in Munich.”

In his opinion the fact that the Mass was carried out “correctly” in accordance with the rubrics was wrong; it resembled “the style of Leo XIII”; it was accompanied by “good church music,” which did not facilitate congregational singing; the congregation did not recite the prayers aloud; and there was no distribution of Communion. (9)

The standard explanation as to why Munich was chosen for the International Eucharistic Congress – that Pius XII once spent time there as papal Nuncio – is simply a red herring. The sudden and unexpected switch of venues, which Card. Wendel persuaded Pius XII to make in 1955, can now be explained against the background of the Cardinal’s overweening ambition to renew the face of Catholicism in Munich and present the International Congress as a world premier in liturgical renewal. This was the subject of his 1956 New Year’s Eve sermon that launched the preparations for the Congress. (10)

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Card. Wendell influenced Pius XII to hold the Congress in Munich

But there was also another reason for choosing Munich as the site of the Congress: it was the prior involvement of Card. Wendel and German Bishops in Catholic-Protestant dialogue. Indeed, Germany was the main country in which Catholic activity in ecumenism was flourishing – at first secretly in the Third Reich for fear of the Nazis and then openly, after the War. (11)

It is not surprising, therefore, that the Munich Congress was also a landmark in ecumenism, as the Vatican proudly announced:

“It was at Munich in 1960 that ecumenical relations began to take on their full importance at Eucharistic Congresses. Hardly had the preparations for the Second Vatican Council begun, than Blessed John XXIII decided to establish the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity. From then on, in the ecclesial context of Vatican II, the movement towards Christian unity became part of the agenda of Eucharistic Congresses.” (12)

An Ecumenical Jamboree

Inter-religious “dialogue” at the Congress was organized by Germany’s largest ecumenical group, the Una Sancta Movement. Books published by the Movement containing articles written by members of different religions, (13) all emphasizing their supposedly “common vision” were distributed free of charge among the crowds. Lectures were held at Munich University on theological topics. It was noted that Protestant theologians were invited to expound their Eucharistic theology to Catholic audiences. (14) But no apologists for Catholic orthodoxy were in evidence.

Instead, heresy was preached from the Catholic side. The German theologian, Otto Karrer, SJ, (15) who had actively promoted ecumenical activities on his own initiative between the two World Wars, and who believed that the non-Catholic religions had Divine approval, was allowed to speak on the Eucharist in the presence of more than 30 Bishops, even though his work had been placed on the Index in 1942. (16)

His lecture, delivered to a packed audience in the the University’s Auditorium Maximum (17) and later published by Una Sancta, emphasized the Protestant notion that the Mass was simply an act of praise and thanksgiving to God, which conveys the spiritual presence of Christ among the participants. (18)

Ecumenically-inspired Objections to Eucharistic Processions

Hostility to Eucharistic processions was not limited to the Protestant side, but was voiced by Catholics. Otto Karrer complained that they had the spirit of the Counter-Reformation and the appearance of a “pseudo-military parade.” (19)

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Processions were numerous at the Munich Congress despite protests by Jungmann & Karrer

Jungmann joined him in calling for processions of the Blessed Sacrament to be discontinued in the Church because he considered any such demonstrations of Catholic worship a form of triumphalism, a show of Catholic power, which would be offensive to Protestants. (20) He concluded that there was no place for such open displays of Catholicism in modern cities. (21)

But Munich, the capital of once Catholic Bavaria, was a city with a long tradition of Eucharistic processions carried out with great pomp and solemnity stretching back to the medieval era. (22) Pope John XXIII recognized this in his radio message delivered in Latin to the participants of the Congress in 1960: “Munich has been and still is particularly outstanding in its devotion to the most heavenly mystery of the Eucharist.” (23)

Jungmann, however, wanted to put an end to it. It seems that he was ashamed of the very existence of Catholicism itself.

Pope Benedict’s Ambivalence

Having been born and brought up in Bavaria, Pope Benedict XVI had been steeped in the very quintessence of Catholic devotion, especially to the Holy Eucharist. It is well known that he has expressed misgivings about certain developments in liturgical reform, but always with a note of ambivalence.

For example, in 2008 he gave a talk on the subject of large outdoor Masses which, he said, continued to pose “an important problem” in the Church. (24) In it, he recalled the 1960 Munich Congress and referred to the “great liturgist” Professor Jungmann, who had revolutionized the event. He did not mention, however, that Jungmann was the driving-force behind a co-ordinated international effort to destroy by stealth both the Church’s traditional liturgy and the popular devotions dear to the heart of every traditional Catholic.

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Pope Benedict's mega-Mass at Yankee Stadium on his visit to the U.S.

The Pope admitted that neither he nor anyone else knew how to solve the problem of preserving the respect due to the Holy Eucharist while prioritizing “active participation” of the people. (25) (Good point – for the two goals, as Jungmann himself had realized, actually militate against each other.)

So, the corollary to this realization is, inescapably, that the people’s “active participation” should never have been attempted in the first place, still less allowed to escalate into an all-out attack on the traditional liturgy that preserved reverence par excellence. Yet the Pope specifically rejected a restoration of the status quo ante – the pre-Vatican II liturgy. (26)

But “mega-Masses” – in which the Blessed Sacrament was routinely exposed to varying degrees of profanation and sometimes outright sacrilege – were a frequent occurrence during Pope Benedict’s papacy. By celebrating them himself, he has provided a major boost to the desacralization of the liturgy, which he purports to deplore. This has helped fuel the popular belief that disrespect towards the Eucharist is now so widespread – and has even been allowed by the Pope – that it would be unthinkable to correct it.

If, as he has declared, the “ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today depends in great part upon the collapse of the liturgy,” (27) and given his early enthusiastic approval for the “mega-Mass,” it is hard to avoid the conclusion that he has blundered into a crisis partly of his own making.


1. In his explanation of the meaning of an International Eucharistic Congress, Archbishop Piero Marini specifically stated that it “is not a triumphalistic manifestation of faith, a great act of homage shown to the Eucharist … but a service to the continuing journey of God’s People.” He defined it as “the source and summit of the life and activity of all the baptised.” The Shape, Significance and Ecclesial Impact of Eucharistic Congresses, June 9, 2009.
2. Peter Pfister (Ed.), Gemeinschaft erleben – Eucharistie feiern Der Eucharistische Weltkongress 1960 in München, (Experience Community. Celebrate the Eucharist. The International Eucharistic Congress in Munich 1960), Regensburg: Archives of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, 2010, p. 45. See here.
3. The Archives also show that Fr. Joseph Ratzinger gave a sermon on the Mass in the church of St. Maria Thalkirchen, Munich, on August 4, 1960. It was entitled “Liebesmahl und Liebeswerk” (The Meal of Love and the Work of Love).
4. “Damit ist der Eucharistische Kongress von München zu einem Markstein der liturgischen und theologischen Entwicklung geworden, wegweisend für die ganze Kirche.” (Thus, the Eucharistic Congress of Munich became a Milestone in liturgical and theological development, revolutionary for the whole Church.) Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, The Catholic Academy of Bavaria, Der Eucharistische Weltkongress in MünchenErinnerung, Reflexion, Auftrag (The International Congress in Munich 50 Years Ago, Reminiscence, Reflection, Mission), July 20, 2012, p. 12.
5. The Congress Masses took the form of the German Betsingmesse, a service invented by Fr. Pius Parsch in the 1920s, in which the people sang the Ordinary of the Mass in the vernacular and sometimes the Propers as well.
6. Fr. Placid Jordan, OSB, “One Million Voices Join in Te Deum at Congress.”, The Bulletin, Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Savannah, August 20, 1960. See here.
7. Cited in Marie-Dominique Chenu, Vatican II Notebook: A Council Journal 1962-1963, trans. by Paul Philibert, OP, Casemate Publishers, 2015, p. 19.
8. Card. Wendel had hosted the Second German Liturgical Congress that took place in Munich from August 29 to September 1, 1955, at which many liturgists, including Jungmann, gave lectures to promote the Liturgical Movement. At that Congress, there was Mass facing the people and “active participation” of the people in the Offertory, congregational singing and spoken responses. See Sylvester Thiesen, “Liturgists at Munich,” The Tablet, September 17, 1955.
9. Cited in Marie-Dominique Chenu, Vatican II Notebook: A Council Journal 1962-1963, translated by Paul Philibert, OP, Casemate Publishers, 2015, p. 19.
10. According to the Cardinal, the point of the Congress was “für ein neues München” (for a new Munich) in which the Church and the world would be renewed. Silvesterpredigt 1956 Seiner Eminenz des Hochwürdigsten Herrn Kardinals im Dom zu Unserer lieben Frau (New Year’s Eve Sermon of His Eminence the Most Reverend Cardinal in the Cathedral of Our Lady; cited in Franz Xaver Bischof, ‘München als Treffpunkt der Kirche: Der 37. Eucharistische Weltkongress 1960’ (Munich as the Meeting Point of the Church: the 37th International Eucharistic Congress), Münchener Theologische Zeitschrift (The Munich Theological Journal), 62, 2011, p. 104.
11. Ecumenism in Germany, which started as a Protestant movement in the early 20th century, was strengthened between the two World Wars when Catholics and Protestants joined forces to combat the rise of National Socialism. In 1943, the German Episcopal Conference set up a department for ecumenical affairs headed by Archbishop (later Cardinal) Jaeger of Paderborn with Karl Rahner and Romano Guardini among its members. Immediately after the War, ecumenical groups mushroomed all over the country, the largest being the Una Sancta Movement created in 1948 by a Catholic priest, Fr. Max Metzger.
Archbishop Jaeger collaborated in 1946 with the Lutheran pastor Wilhelm Stählin to found the “Jaeger-Stählin Circle” for prayer and discussion among Protestant and Catholic theologians, of which Walter Kasper, Karl Lehmann and Joseph Ratzinger were members. See Barbara Schwahn, Der Ökumenische Arbeitskreis Evangelischer und Katholischer Theologen von 1946 bis 1975 (The Ecumenical Working Group of Protestant and Catholic theologians from 1964 to 1975), Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1996, p. 41. In 1957, Jaeger founded the Johann Adam Möhler Institute for Ecumenism.
Throughout Pius XII’s pontificate, Fr. Augustin Bea, SJ, acted as the link between all the German ecumenical groups and the Vatican.
With Bea’s express encouragement, Archbishop Jaeger wrote to Pope John XXIII in March 1960 requesting a group of “experts” to be formally set up in the Vatican to advise on ecumenical questions. Three months later, the Pope established a Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity as one of the preparatory commissions for the Council, and appointed Bea (whom he had recently made a Cardinal) as its first President.
12. Piero Marini, The Shape, Significance and Ecclesial Impact of Eucharistic Congresses, June 9, 2009. See here
13. Apud George Faithful, Mothering the Fatherland: A Protestant Sisterhood Repents for the Holocaust, Oxford University Press, 2014. Faithful’s book is an example of one such publication promoting religious pluralism. In addition to the Catholic authors, he notes “one Eastern Orthodox lay theologian and literature professor, three Protestant theology professors, two Protestant laymen, the head of a Protestant academy, and [the Protestant theologian] Hans Asmussen” and Mother Basilea Schlink, who founded a Protestant order of nuns called the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary. ( p. 76)
14. Derrick,“The Eucharistic Congress at Munich,” The Tablet, August 20, 1960.
15. Fr. Karrer was a disciple of the medieval mystic, Meister Eckhart and also an admirer of Card. John Newman whom he regarded as one of the fathers of modern theology. In 1922, he produced a German version of Newman’s works. His influence on the ecumenical theology of Vatican II was considerable. What a world of difference lies between Karrer and his fellow Jesuit, St. Peter Canisius, who led the Jesuit Counter-Reformation in Germany against the Protestants of the 16th century!
16. His work, Gebet, Vorsehung, Wunder (Prayer, Providence, Miracle), was published in 1941. See here
17. Victor Conzemius, Otto Karrer (1888-1976), Publications de l'École Française de Rome, 1989, vol. 113, n. 1, p. 351.
18. O. Karrer, ‘Die Eucharistie im Gespräch der Konfessionen, Vortrag 6. 8. 1960 beim Eucharistischen Weltkongress München’ (The Eucharist in Dialogue with Religions: a lecture given on August 6, 1960, at the International Eucharistic Congress in Munich) in Una Sancta 15, 1960, pp. 229-250.
19. Victor Conzemius, Otto Karrer (1888-1976), p. 351. It is true that in Munich Eucharistic processions, sponsored by the Dukes of Bavaria, were traditionally accompanied by the sound of church bells, drums, trumpets and gunfire from muskets and cannon. (See Alois Mitterwieser, Geschichte der Fronleichnamsprozession in Bayern, Verlag Knorr und Hirth GmbH, Munich, 1930, pp. 34-37) But this was done to salute the Royalty of Christ the King and to emphasize the combative spirit needed to defend the true Faith.
20. Franz Xaver Bischof, München als Treffpunkt der Kirche: Der 37. Eucharistische Weltkongress 1960 (Munich as the Meeting Place of the Church: The 37th International Eucharistic Congress 1960), Münchener Theologische Zeitschrift (The Munich Theological Journal) , 62 (2011), p. 106.
21. Jungmann put it this way: “The right place for the festive procession with the Blessed Sacrament in a colorful Corpus Christi celebration would be in a closed Catholic environment. This closed Catholic environment no longer exists.” (ibid., p. 106)
22. Jungmann did not succeed in entirely eliminating Eucharistic processions, even at the Munich Congress. On that occasion, the procession of the Blessed Sacrament was led by the papal legate, Card. Gustavo Testa. Also, Corpus Christi, called “Fronleichnam” in German, is still a public holiday in Bavaria and has for centuries been a cherished institution in its own right. It was always a magnificent spectacle, with the people taking part in the procession dressed in traditional costumes to honor the Blessed Sacrament.
23. XXIII, Animo praesentes, August 7, 1960, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1960, p. 774.
24. Meeting with the Parish Priests and the Clergy of the Diocese of Rome, Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI, Hall of Blessings, Thursday, February 7, 2008.
25. Pope Benedict stated: “For my part, I have to say, it remains a problem because concrete communion in the celebration is fundamental and I do not consider that the definitive answer has really been found. I also raised this question during the last Synod, but it was not answered.” (ibid.)
26. He stated that he was “without any longing for a yesterday irretrievably gone with the wind.” Vittorio Messori, The Ratzinger Report, Ignatius Press, 1985, p. 19; and that a “restoration” of the pre-Vatican II liturgy is neither possible nor even desirable. (ibid. pp. 37-38 )
27. Joseph Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, Ignatius Press, 1998, p. 148.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
The Holy Week Reform Paved the Way for the Reform of the Mass
Taken from here [slightly adapted - emphasis mine].

In this article we will look at the manner in which ancient principles of the traditional Holy Week liturgy were sacrificed on the altar of Progressivism, and reflect on the tragic fact that Pius XII made this destructive agenda the basis of binding juridical norms for the whole Roman Rite.

Night of the Long Knives

This was accomplished on November 16, 1955, with the Decree Maxima Redemptionis. The members of Pius XII’s Liturgical Commission used the “lingchi” (1) strategy – a slow slicing rather than a single fatal blow, also known as “death by a thousand cuts” – in their concerted attack on the traditional Holy Week rites.

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His reforms paved the way for the Vatican II revolution

The reformers started by lopping off “medieval accretions” whether textual, ritual or ceremonial, topping and tailing the preparatory and concluding prayers of the Mass, paring to the bone the prayers of blessing, excising most of the Scriptural readings, gouging holes here and there in the ancient custom of the Roman Rite and generally butchering the coherence of the whole.

From 1951 to 1955, the Holy Week ceremonies were subjected to cut after brutal cut, none of which was fatal in itself, until they were so attenuated that, like all lingchi victims, they scarcely resembled their former selves. This was the method by which those who were wielding the knives were attempting to prepare the faithful for the eventual abandonment of the traditional Mass.

It is of the greatest significance that the resulting Holy Week liturgy, which would later be incorporated into the 1962 Missal, was horribly dismembered and mutilated, its beauty disfigured, its dignity assailed, its order and structure wrecked, its own special identity transformed so as to appeal to modern man.

Connection between Holy Week reforms & Paul VI’s New Mass

Before moving on to examine these “cuts” in all their gory detail, we must pause to consider that they were merely the prelude to worse atrocities, for what happened to the liturgy in 1969, with the introduction of the Novus Ordo, plumbed new depths of barbarity. The same methods were used, largely by the same people who operated in the Holy Week reform, but were applied in stages, via the 1962 Missal, to the whole of the Church’s liturgy.

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Msgr. Wagner in suit and tie at the time of the Council

This intention of the reformers was confirmed by the German liturgist, Mgr. Johannes Wagner, (2) Director of the Liturgical Institute of Trier. (3) Writing in 1959, he explained that the Holy Week reforms were the forerunner of the reform of the Mass itself:
Quote:“It has always been the desire of those working for a true renewal of the liturgy that it should, in its whole action, become meaningful again; a meaningful interplay or, better, combined action and interaction of many, where each has his own non-interchangeable, non-transferable contribution to make, his own part to play. The new order of Holy Week shows many tendencies in this direction… [this reform] would indeed be the beginning of the great renewal of the liturgy which the Church needs. God grant it!” (4) [emphasis in the original]

Leaving aside the inbuilt presumption of divine approval that has always been characteristic of the reformers, we cannot ignore the fact that Mgr. Wagner had some personal involvement in the Liturgical Movement industry. The Institute he directed was responsible for publishing militant propaganda in favor of the Holy Week reforms and for organizing Congresses in Germany and abroad for the same purpose. (5)

Where Angels Fear to Tread (6)

As we have seen, these reformers called for, among other things, the elimination of much of the Roman Rite, the use of the vernacular and “active participation” by the people. The reformers rushed in where even angels fear to tread by proposing to change the Canon of the Mass.

It is evident that the reformers who patronized the Congresses simply used the gatherings as proverbial “fishing expeditions” to trawl for any information, however biased or spurious, they could later use as false evidence for the “need” to dismantle the Church’s ancient liturgy.

In order to assess the extent of the damage done by Bugnini’s men to the Holy Week ceremonies of the ancient Roman Rite, all we need is a pre-1955 Missal in one hand and a 1962 Missal (which contains the bulk of Pius XII’s reforms) in the other. A simple comparison will reveal the depredations of a progressivist culture twisting its knives deep into the entrails of the Church’s traditions. It will also serve to remind us that lingchi was not the sole preserve of the Chinese.

The Blessing of palms on Palm Sunday

The first thing we notice in Pius XII’s reform (also in the 1962 Missal) is that the Asperges, which preceded every solemn Sunday celebration throughout the year, (7) has been dropped. The same applies to the prayers at the foot of the altar. (8)

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Paul VI at the closing of the Council

Regrettable though that may be, the significance of their loss hardly registers on the scale of destruction wrought on the ancient and venerable rite of the Blessing of Palms that preceded the Mass. It is important to know that the rite of blessing and the Mass together formed a monolithic structure, which had remained solid and unchanged for many centuries; as such it was indivisible, an organized whole that exerted a powerful and influential force for spiritual good in the Church.

The destruction of the rite of blessing can be described, without exaggeration, as a total cliff face collapse of the traditional structure, as it was simply “scooped out” by the reformers. In the resulting landslide, as we shall see, many beautiful prayers and accompanying ceremonial, valued over the centuries for their power to move the soul and reinforce the Faith, were swept away.

How important was the traditional blessing of palms?

Dom Prosper Guéranger remarked with reference to this ceremony: “We may have an idea of its importance by the solemnity used by the Church in this sacred rite.” (9) No greater token of its importance could be given than to enshrine the Blessing of Palms in a rite that is closely modelled on that of the Mass itself.

The pre-1955 rite began at the altar, on which the palms were laid; the sequence of texts corresponded to the Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Gospel, Secret, Preface, Sanctus and Post-communion; the part of the rite corresponding to the Canon was filled with seven prayers of blessing of the palms, after which the clergy and the people would approach the altar, as they would at Communion time, to receive the blessed palms. This structure, with its obvious connection to the Holy Sacrifice, was abandoned by the 1955 Decree, thus turning overnight the traditional rite into a “museum piece”.

Now, let us examine why our forefathers in the Faith considered these Palm Sunday ceremonies of such great importance (and, by implication, why the 1955 reformers who abolished them did not).

Even the briefest survey of its prayers and ceremonies, which is all that can be attempted here, would suffice to show that they were valued for their theological content, their poetic beauty, their expressive symbolism and their ability to move the soul to enter, through contemplation, into the mystery of Christ’s Passion.

Their effect was enhanced when they were conducted against the backdrop of imposing architecture, magnificent vestments and the sublime strains of Gregorian chant. All of these elements combined to attract and edify both clergy and faithful for many centuries.

Theological Content Suppressed

The first casualty of the reform of the Blessing of Palms was the essential connection between the Passion of Christ and the institution of the Holy Eucharist.

Before 1955, the texts of the liturgy gave an overview of salvation history, starting with the events of the Old Testament when after the Israelites murmured against Moses and Aaron God provided them with manna in the desert; those texts considered Christ’s entry into Jerusalem as a figure of His triumph, through His Passion, over sin and death. The analogy with the Eucharist is that God provides the Bread of Life on our altars through the Holy Sacrifice.

In the traditional rite, the Gospel of the Palm Sunday Mass included the institution of the Eucharist, but this was cut out in 1955, as it was in all the Passion readings of the reformed Holy Week.

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Christ the King must rule over all nations

Secondly, Pius XII’s reform abolished the Preface, (10) which proclaimed Christ’s authority over all the “kings and powers of this world” and the consequent duty of temporal governments to be subservient to Christ the King. The elimination of this doctrine from the ancient rite can, at the very least, be regarded as an affront to Pius XII's immediate Predecessor who had promulgated the Encyclical Quas primas, on the Kingship of Christ, in 1925. In that Encyclical Pope Pius XI reaffirmed the unbroken teaching of previous Popes that nations as well as individuals must submit themselves to the rule of Christ the King.

Indeed, the significance of this omission goes way beyond the issue of “simplification” of the liturgy. It can be considered as the first step in the progressivists’ campaign to promote the sort of “religious liberty” that would later surface at Vatican II.

For, 10 years later, in December 1965, Dignitatis humanae, Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty, also suppressed the traditional papal teaching on the social reign of Christ the King. With the promulgation of that Declaration Church leaders ceased to teach that all rulers and statesmen have an obligation to give public honor and obedience to Christ. This perennial teaching of the Magisterium was rejected by Vatican II in order to open the Church to the revolutionary principles of the modern world. (11)


1. A particularly gruesome and sadistic form of execution used for centuries in China.
2. Mgr. Johannes Wagner was an influential figure in the post-war German Liturgical Movement. He later became a member of Pope Paul VI’s Consilium, and was given the task of directing the work on the new Missal. He was also one of the select few liturgists on the Consilium who worked directly with Bugnini. (See Piero Marini, A Challenging Reform, Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2007, p. 12) Other key collaborators on this project were the well known liturgists Jungmann, Jounel, Gy, Wagner, Vagaggini, Gélineau, Bouyer and McManus.
3. This was set up in 1947 to promote liturgical reform in Germany through publications and organization of liturgical Congresses.
4. Johannes Wagner, Postscript to Balthasar Fischer and Johannes Wagner (eds.), Paschatis Sollemnia. Studien zur Osterfeier und Osterfrommigkeit. Festschrift J. A. Jungmannzur Vollendung seines 70. Lebensjahres von Schülern u. Freunden dargeboten Freiburg, (Studies on the Easter Celebration and Piety. A Tribute to J. A. Jungmann for his 70th birthday, presented by pupils and friends), Herder, 1959. (See here), pp. 190-191
5. In 1950 the Institute organized the first German Liturgical Congress at Frankfurt, in 1951 the First International Congress of Liturgical Studies at Maria Laach and in 1955 the second German Liturgical Congress at Munich. All put pressure on Pius XII for liturgical reforms, some of which were granted in his pontificate, the rest being only a matter of time before they materialized.
6. A far-sighted and apt quotation from Alexander Pope’s Essay on Criticism (1709):
  “No place so sacred from such fops is barr’d…
  Nay, fly to altars; there they’ll talk you dead;
  For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
7. Except in Eastertide when it is replaced by another equally solemn ceremony, the Vidi aquam.
8. Psalm 42, however, was not included in the pre-1955 prayers at the foot of the altar in Passiontide.
9. P. Guéranger O.S.B., The Liturgical Year, Dublin: James Duffy, 1886, vol. 6, p. 195.
10. Part of the Preface of the Blessing of Palms reads: “For Thee do Thy creatures serve, because they know Thee, their only author and God: and all the things that Thou hast made join in praising Thee; and Thy saints bless Thee, in that they confess with unfaltering voice before kings and powers of this world that great name, the name of Thine only-begotten Son.”
11. The revolutionary principles of the modern world are now clearly apparent even in formerly Catholic countries today in the legalization of divorce, contraception, pornography, “gay marriage,” euthanasia and abortion. Under the protection of Vatican II’s repudiation of the reign of Christ the King over societies, an abortion clinic was opened in Rome during the papacy of Paul VI; he was reportedly upset, but could do nothing to prevent it without contradicting his own teaching on religious liberty and the separation of the Church and State. He can, thus, be said to have presided over the spiritual and corporal destruction of his flock in his own Diocese.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Devastating Consequences of the 1955 Reform
Taken from here [slightly adapted - emphasis mine].

As noted in the last article (note 7), the reformers cut out some of the traditional Palm Sunday antiphons sung during the procession and substituted others from a modern Latin translation of the Psalms, which marked a complete break with tradition. (1)

The Social Kingship of Christ Marginalized

Here we will deal only with one line of the Psalm 46:9, which became in the Bea version: “Deus regnat super nationes” (God reigns over the nations).

The problem is that the Bea version, which is based on the Hebrew text, does not express the Christological context of this Psalm, which was a prophecy about the future establishment of the Church when Christ would confer on her His spiritual authority over all individuals and nations. That is why the authentic Latin text found in the Vulgate Bible of St. Jerome uses the future tense: “Regnabit Deus super nationes” (God shall reign over the nations). (2) But this meaning was lost in the 1955 reform. (3)

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A rejection of the truth that Christ reigns over nations; above, Cristo Rey in Lisbon, Portugal

The Preface of the pre-1955 Blessing of Palms shows the relevance of this teaching to our age by revealing the theological foundation of the duty of temporal governments to be subservient to Christ the King. It was this teaching that the 1955 reformers excised from the liturgy of Palm Sunday, as they also did from the Good Friday liturgy with the abolition of the hymn, Vexilla Regis.

Where the suppression of the traditional doctrine in the 1955 liturgy was leading has become quite clear with the benefit of hindsight. Paul VI would seal its fate in 1969 with his motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis. Whereas Pius XI had called on all nations to declare Christ as their King here and now, Paul VI gave a different message: Abandon any prospect of the Social Kingship of Christ until the end of the world. (4)

This is in line with Vatican II teaching on “religious liberty.” For progressivists the kingship of Christ is not acceptable when its realization impinges on the political and social order of modern States or demands the Church to convert all nations, Christianize their cultures and influence their laws. But this is tantamount to banishing Christ from the public square. And people wonder why the Church’s missionary spirit has been extinguished.

The Ancient Rite of Blessing the Palms Abolished

Of the seven traditional prayers for the blessing of palms, Pius XII’s Commission abolished all except one, thereby expunging from the Holy Week liturgy a vital expression of the Church’s doctrine on the efficacy of sacramentals.

According to Dom Prosper Guéranger, the blessing of the palms imparts a virtue to these branches and elevates them to the supernatural order. Thus, they become a means for the sanctification of our souls and a protection of our persons and dwellings. (5)

In these prayers, the sprigs of palm or olive, after they are blessed, are called a sacramentum, a “sacred sign” and a “saving remedy” signifying God’s “protection of soul and body.” God is further entreated that all who receive them “in the spirit of faith” and keep them in their homes may receive His blessing and protection, and that through their use the right hand of God may dispel all evil.

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Paul VI sold his tiara to symbolize the Papacy's abdication of its temporal power

This is the clearest possible liturgical expression of the Church’s teaching that the blessed palms, when used with a pious intention, are carriers of God’s grace to man. (6)

But the 1955 reformers, in their desire to bury this doctrine, used the following straw man argument to eliminate any mention of it in the liturgy:

“These pious customs [of the blessed palms], although theologically justified, can degenerate (as in fact they have degenerated) into superstition.” (7)

In spite of the fact that the liturgy neither comes from nor leads to superstition, that was their crass justification for desacralizing the Palm Sunday rite of blessing by divesting the prayers of their supernatural status.

Scepticism about the supernatural was always the hallmark of progressivists, and is still evident today, as we can see in the following quote from an official Vatican source, a document from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:

“Palms or olive branches should not be kept as amulets, or for therapeutic or magical reasons to dispel evil spirits or to prevent the damage these cause in the fields or in the homes, all of which can assume a certain superstitious guise.” (8)

A Creeping Naturalism

Cutting these prayers out of the liturgy was bound to weaken any real sense of the significance of the supernatural in the lives of the faithful. The history of the liturgical reform has shown that this was just the start of a trend, culminating in the Novus Ordo Mass, in which the supernatural was steadily being peeled away. It is no wonder that belief in the Church as the mediator of divine grace has long since faded.

Quite predictably, the work of Pius XII’s Commission gave rise to a vicious circle within the Church. For the temptation that followed the 1955 reform, and to which many have since yielded, was to reinterpret Faith and Morals to suit the prevailing secularization of the liturgy.

Old Testament Symbolism Discarded

We cannot but deplore the disappearance of the rich symbolism in the Palm Sunday liturgy, which carries deep theological meaning. The traditional prayers mention a range of people and events in the Old Testament and show their connection with Christ’s redeeming work, thus revealing the spiritual and mystical significance of the entire Holy Week.

They present Moses, Aaron, the Israelites, Noah and the Ark as “types” or “shadows” prefiguring some aspect of God’s plan of salvation fulfilled in the New Testament: liberation from the bondage of sin the peace of God heralded by the dove carrying the olive branch; the Ark as the figure of the Church.

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The blessed palms are rich with symbolism

Even the humble branches of palm and olive are mentioned in these prayers: the former as signifying Christ’s victory over the prince of death, (9) the latter as prefiguring “spiritual unction” (sacramental grace) through Christ.

All of this symbolism was removed in 1955, reducing the Blessing of Palms to a perfunctory, one-prayer service displaying none of the scriptural depth, poetic beauty or mystical significance of the traditional rite.

Card. Nicholas Wiseman described these prayers of blessing as rich in poetry and dramatic appeal, and said that they “possess an elevation of sentiment, a force of expression and a depth of feeling that no modern form of supplication ever exhibits.” (10) He was, however, only one (albeit the most eloquent) among the countless Catholic souls who appreciated and were moved by these prayers before their relegation to the dustbin of history.

An Ancient & Much-Loved Ceremony Abandoned

One of the most popular and memorable traditions in the unreformed Palm Sunday ceremonies took place after the distribution of the palms and was performed by the sub-deacon who led the procession while carrying the veiled crucifix.

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The sub-deacon strikes the cathedral door in a 1942 Palm Sunday Procession in London (more here)

After the clergy and faithful had processed outside the church to the sound of antiphons sung by the choir, the door was closed; they could only regain admittance after the sub-deacon had struck the door three times with the foot of the cross.

For those participating in the procession, this dramatic gesture carried deep theological meaning. It was a particularly vivid symbol signifying Christ’s opening the gates of the New Jerusalem by His death upon the Cross and leading the faithful to their heavenly goal.

Who could fail to understand or be impressed by the doctrinal significance of this simple gesture? Yet, it was cast aside by the reformers as a worthless relic of the past instead of being cherished and transmitted to posterity as an inheritance from our forefathers in the Faith.

The Reading of the Passion Curtailed

In the 1955 reform – and consequently in the 1962 Missal – the Passion of St. Matthew is considerably shortened by the deliberate omission of two key elements: the institution of the Eucharist and the guarding of the tomb of Jesus.

As regards the former, the Church included it on Palm Sunday and other days of Holy Week in order to make a doctrinal point unmistakably clear: that there is an essential bond between the Eucharist and the Passion. Or, in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: “The Eucharist is the perfect sacrament of our Lord’s Passion, as containing Christ crucified.” (11)

The omission of what the Church had considered vital to our understanding of the Eucharist undermines the coherence of the entire Holy Week liturgy.

As for St. Matthew’s account of the guarded tomb, also omitted in 1955, its excision from the Palm Sunday liturgy was seriously detrimental to the Church for two reasons.

First, it furnished incontrovertible proof of the reality of Christ’s Resurrection, while at the same time exposing the malice of the Jews who continued their persecution of Him even beyond His death. (12)

Secondly, as St. Matthew was the only one of the four Evangelists to mention the guarding of the tomb, to expunge this passage meant that it would no longer have any place in the entire Roman Missal; it was just another case of the Liturgical Movement’s “memory holes” swallowing up unwanted doctrinal facts and erasing them from the official records.


1. In 1945, with Pius XII’s approval, Fr. Augustin Bea, S.J., produced a new Latin version of the Psalms. It was the work of a committee of experts at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome carried out under his direction. For some of the problems created by the new Psalter, See here note 9.
2. The Bea translation of “regnat” is, therefore, a falsification of the Latin Vulgate that has been handed down through liturgical use and interpreted by the Fathers of the Church.
In the Hebrew text (which was also divinely inspired), the Perfect tense of the verb malakh (reign) is used. Normally associated with past events, the Perfect tense is more wide ranging in Hebrew and covers the action of a verb as a whole. Whether it embraces the past, present or future is revealed from its context. Like many Old Testament prophecies, the Hebrew version of Psalm 46:9 uses the so-called “prophetic Perfect” tense to foretell a future event.
In this context, the use of the future tense “regnabit” in the Latin Vulgate of the pre-1955 Missal is appropriate to illustrate the Old Testament prophecy of Christ’s Kingship when He founded the Church in the New Testament. Thus, the two Testaments are seen as inter-related in a unified and coherent whole; as St. Augustine said: “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old is fulfilled in the New.”
3. It was precisely this teaching that the reformers cut out of the Palm Sunday liturgy, first from the Preface of the Blessing of Palms and secondly from Psalm 46, which is itself a completely new insert. It is noteworthy that the Bea version is reproduced in the editio typica of the 1962 Missal promulgated by the Sacred Congregation of Rites on 23 June of that year. (See here, p. 132)
Curiously, with the exception of Baronius Press, which has reproduced the 1962 Missal in strict accordance with the editio typica, other traditionalist publishers have changed “regnat” back to “regnabit” presumably out of fidelity to Tradition. The expression “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel” comes to mind.
4. In this motu proprio, Paul VI changed the date of the Feast of Christ the King (set by Pius XI on the Sunday before All Saints Day) to the last Sunday of the ecclesiastical year, with the intention that “the eschatological importance of this Sunday is made clearer.” Thus, he gave the faithful to understand that Christ will become King of the Universe only after a long process, that is, at the end of the world.
5. Prosper Guéranger O.S.B., The Liturgical Year, vol. 6, James Duffy, Dublin, 1886, p. 195.
6. We will see in the next article how Bugnini and his colleagues invented a new prayer phrased in such a way as to conceal the link between the Church's blesssing of the palms and their efficacy as sacramentals.
7. Apud N. Giampietro, ‘A cinquant’anni dalla riforma liturgica della Settimana Santa,’ in Ephemerides Liturgicae, CXX, 2006, n. 3, July-September, p. 307.
8. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, Principles and Guidelines, December 17, 2001, § 139.
9. And, by extension, the palm is a symbol of victory against the enemies of the soul in the war waged by the spirit against the flesh – a doctrinal point very much out of favour in the modern liturgy.
10. Nicholas Wiseman, Four lectures on the offices and ceremonies of Holy Week, as performed in the Papal chapels delivered in Rome in the Lent of 1837, C. Dolman, London, 1839, p. 64.
11. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part III, q. 73, a. 5.
12. In Matthew 62-66 we read: “The chief priests and the Pharisees came together to Pilate, saying: Sir, we have remembered that that seducer said, while he was yet alive: After three days I will rise again. Command, therefore, the sepulchre to be guarded until the third day: lest perhaps his disciples come and steal him away, and say to the people: He is risen from the dead; and the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate saith to them: You have a guard; go, guard it as you know. ... And they, departing, made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone and setting guards.”
St. Augustine saw the illogicality of the Jewish lobby and asked: if the guard was awake, how could the theft succeed, and if the guards were asleep, how could they identify the disciples as the thieves?
In this passage, St. Matthew brought out with subtle irony the workings of divine Providence regarding the attempts by the Jews to prevent the Resurrection from taking place. For the more precautions they took, humanly speaking, to seal and guard the tomb, the more they confirmed the truth of the Resurrection as a supernatural event to the whole world. And so they were hoist on their own petard, for it was their credibility that was damaged while belief in the Resurrection was strengthened by their very attempts to suppress it.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Revolutionary Nature of the Liturgical Reform
Taken from here [slightly adapted - emphasis mine].

We have seen some, but by no means all, of the depredations (1) inflicted on the Palm Sunday liturgy, which became operative in 1956, and have noted that they were undertaken at the expense of authentic Catholic values, doctrinal integrity, poetic beauty and appreciation of the Church’s past achievements.

History has indeed shown that these reforms were not only the tip of the iceberg of an unrestrained pillaging and ransacking of the ancient Holy Week rite; but they were also the first steps in a deliberate attempt to demolish our common heritage and usher in an entirely new kind of liturgy ‒ one that has not advanced the cause of Catholicism. It was a painful record of humiliation, defeat and loss for all the Bishops, priests and lay people who protested to the Holy See at the time. They were simply left to rail in impotent anger.

Given the historical evidence, we are entitled to conclude that, in spite of protestations of good intentions by the liturgists, the reforms involved either an indifference to the nature of Catholic Tradition or a desire to eradicate it.

One Innovation Begets Another…

It is only when the details are examined that the revolutionary nature of the reforms becomes apparent. Now we shall see what new ideas were dreamt up by the progressivists to replace what they had managed to purloin from the universal Church with the complicity of Pius XII.

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Pius XII opened the door to today’s liturgical committees that design liturgy for each parish

The foremost issue was the “active participation” of the people, as Fr. Frederick McManus, a major figure in the reform, explained as soon as the new Holy Week Ordo was issued in 1956:

“The rubrics of the Ordo refer constantly to the responses to be made by the members of the congregation and to their activity in the carrying out of the holy liturgy. This is of course a notable departure from the rubrical norms of the Roman Missal.” (2)

What is even more revolutionary is that responsibility for carrying out the liturgy now falls, by papal diktat and for the first time in the Church’s History, on the shoulders of the laity: their “active participation” is “made a matter of rubrical law and incorporated into the very text of the new liturgical book.” (3)

When has the Roman Missal ever laid down rules to regulate how the faithful should respond during the liturgy? (4) Even Fr. McManus had to admit that the traditional Missal was silent on the manner of lay participation. But the reformed Missal, on the other hand, made it incumbent on the laity to give the responses and contribute actively to the performance of the liturgy.

This shows that Pius XII imposed these changes in an authoritarian, oppressive and intrusive program to please the liturgical reformers. The impression was given that anyone praying silently in the pews during liturgical ceremonies would be guilty of breaking a law laid down by the Pope. (5)

The ‘Cult of Novelty’ in the Palm Sunday Liturgy

The 1956 and 1962 Palm Sunday liturgy opens with a visual and (literally) shocking reversal of traditional practice. In order to reinforce the “community celebration” aspect, a portable table is set up in the sanctuary, the palms are laid on it and the priest blesses them in full view of the people, (6) all the while with his back to the altar and the Blessed Sacrament.

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Palms setout before a bare altar at a modern Novus Ordo church

Reversing centuries of liturgical tradition, the 1956 Ordo of Palm Sunday mandated that the priest (or deacon) should conduct an audible dialogue with the people while facing them. This took place at various points: before the blessing of the palms; (7) both before and after the procession; (8) before the Gospel and at the Orate Fratres. (9)

Ironically, the procession in honor of Christ the King was revamped to exalt the role of the people in the liturgy. Now that the supernatural significance of the sub-deacon’s role was eliminated, as were the traditional purple vestments – doubly significant as the color associated with royalty and Christ’s Passion – the way was open to enlarging the role of the laity.

Whereas in the traditional Missal the singing of the liturgy was the function of the priest and cantors alternating with the choir, in the new Ordo this suddenly became the responsibility of all. (10) Thus, the congregation was required to sing not only during the blessing and procession of palms, but also throughout the entire Palm Sunday Mass. (11) This introduced a novelty into the rubrics for sung Masses. The Graduale Romanum issued by Pius X had not included instructions for congregational singing. (12)

A Made-Up Prayer

Now, let us consider another innovation in the Palm Sunday liturgy that was incorporated into the 1962 Missal, having been first introduced into the 1956 Ordo: The prayer after the procession, which is said facing the people and to which they have to respond aloud. It was the result of a shambolic committee-work hastily cobbled together by Bugnini and his associates and was problematic for two reasons.

First, theologically speaking, the prayer was vague and ambivalent. It mentioned palm branches and God’s blessing, but without establishing any intrinsic link between them, and spoke of our redemption being wrought by Christ’s “right hand” (a phrase normally attributed to the Father).

Second, linguistically speaking, it was expressed in somewhat garbled Latin. Judging by its varying translations, no one seems to know what exactly the prayer was supposed to mean. Evidently, the composers of the prayer have left everyone guessing.

The Bea Psalms – From Optional to Mandatory

An example of an unwarranted intrusion into the Palm Sunday liturgy – indeed into the whole of the 1956 Holy Week ceremonies – was the imposition of a new Latin version of the Psalms, which had been undertaken, at Pius XII’s request, by a committee of biblical experts headed by Fr. Augustin Bea, S.J.

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Bea would take the liturgical reform further under his friend John XXIII

This replaced St. Jerome’s Vulgate version of the Psalms that had been established as the universal and immemorial customary lex orandi (law of prayer) for the Latin Rite. Their authenticity was guaranteed by the Council of Trent on the basis of centennial custom, which is why the liturgical use of the Vulgate was regarded as sacrosanct, as we can see from the same Council’s warning that “no one is to dare, or presume, to reject it under any pretext whatever.” (13)

At first, it was only optional, (14) but in 1956 Pius XII integrated some of the new Psalms by force of law into the Holy Week ceremonies, an initiative that was nothing short of revolutionary. This innovation was yet another example of how Pius XII subordinated immemorial Tradition to papal authority on the basis of the subjective opinions of the reformers, in a manner that would be adopted by Paul VI on a comprehensive scale.

His reform gave rise to two major problems.

First, the new wording of the Bea Psalms, drawn from Classical Latin vocabulary and syntax, was different from the “Christianized” idiom of the Vulgate, which the Church had adopted as the sacred language of the liturgy and which the clergy had been using for over 15 centuries.

Fr. Bea despised the Latin recited by the clergy for so many centuries and unjustly called it a “decadent usage” incapable of meeting the standards of Classical Latin. (15) But there was no need to have an inferiority complex about it.

As various classical scholars have shown, Medieval Latin was a direct descendant of the literary, learned Latin of the classical age, not a debased or corrupt form of it. It was this elevated form of Latin that the Church elaborated and adapted for use in Scripture and the liturgy, adding her own distinctive style and diction, to express the Christian message. And, so, there emerged the unique “Christianized” Latin that is found in the Vulgate. There the “family lineaments” of Latin Christianity are clear, revealing the Bea version as an interloper.

Second, the Bea Psalms were ill adapted to Gregorian chant, making it awkward to sing in religious communities and providing a disincentive for them to do so. (16) The words were not, in general, those used by their forebears in the Faith and the new chants, which had to be composed to match, were not those that had echoed around the medieval monasteries. We can conclude that the new Holy Week ceremonies were not in harmony with the ancient Latin liturgical heritage and should have no place in the Roman Missal.

Thus, we can see how Pius XII began a process that had the gravest possible implications for future changes in the liturgy – the gradual detachment of the clergy from the worship, theology and spirituality of their Latin patrimony.


1. Lest anyone should think that the word depredation is mere hyperbole, it has been chosen advisedly for its etymological roots in the Latin language which links praeda (prey) to praedari (to plunder). Later the prefix de (completely) was added to intensify the meaning and indicate that a thorough job has been done.
2. Frederick McManus, The Rites of Holy Week: Ceremonies, Preparations, Music, Commentaries, New Jersey: St. Anthony Guild Press, ,1956, pp. viii-ix.
3. Ibid. , p. ix.
4. It was the responsibility of the celebrant, not the laity, to “read the black and do the red” as printed in the Missal, under pain of penalty. There were also detailed instructions in the Missal for other ministers in the sanctuary in their respective roles, but none for the laity because they were not regarded as having a liturgical role to play.
Here we must keep in mind a known historical fact: Under the influence of Jansenism and Gallicanism, some 17th and 18th century French dioceses published their own Missals independently of the Holy See, in which the compilers issued instructions for the congregation to make certain responses. But this does not, however, prove that the people did, in fact, make any responses or, if so, how many in a given congregation or to what extent throughout France. In the diocese of Meaux, for example, a Missal was published in 1709 in which the people’s responses were designated by the sign ℟ printed in red. But there was such a general outcry against it that the Bishop, Thiard de Bissy (Bossuet’s immediate successor), ordered the rubrics to be removed from the Missal. (See P. Guéranger, Institutions Liturgiques, Paris, 1841, vol. 2, pp. 181-182) See here.
5. This revolutionary view was reinforced in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal where it is stated that the faithful have a duty (§ 18) to become actively involved in the liturgy and they must not refuse to do so: “The faithful, moreover, should not refuse to serve the People of God in gladness whenever they are asked to perform some particular service or function in the celebration.” (§ 97).
6. “In conspectu populi.”
7. After the opening Antiphon is sung, the celebrant, facing the people from behind the table, says Dominus vobiscum, to which all respond Et cum spiritu tuo. But in the traditional rite, the priest remains at the altar, and is specifically instructed not to turn to the people (non vertens se ad populum) during this exchange: the response is given by another minister in the sanctuary.
8. Before the procession, the deacon, facing the people, says Procedamus in pace (Let us go forth in peace), and the people respond In nomine Christi (in the name of Christ). This contrasts with the traditional Missal, which instructs only the Choir to sing the response. See p. 28 here.
At the end of the procession, a new prayer has been inserted, which is said by the celebrant while facing the people, and requires the response Amen from them.
9. After the priest has said the Orate fratres in a clearly audible voice (clara et elevata voce), the people respond aloud.
10. The rubrics of the 1956 Ordo and the 1962 Missal indicate the parts to be sung by the choir and by the people. But the rationale for this can be seen in the spirit of rivalry on which it was based. Fr. McManus explained the thinking behind this reform:
“When a choir chants those parts of Holy Mass or other rites that belong to the people, the faithful are not doing what they are appointed by their baptismal character to do – namely, worship God as members of Christ. In the restored Holy Week, the clear directions indicate again and again that the people should not be denied this right.” (F. McManus, The Rites of Holy Week, p. 32)
An option is given for the faithful to sing Christus vincit or another hymn.
11. This included the Kyrie; Et cum spiritu tuo and Amen at the Collect; the entire Creed; Et cum spiritu tuo at the Offertory; Amen to the Secret; the responses at the Preface dialogue; the entire Sanctus; Amen after the Canon; Sed libera nos a malo, Amen and Et cum spiritu tuo at the Pater Noster and Libera; the Agnus Dei; Et cum spiritu tuo and Amen after the Post-communion; Et cum spiritu tuo and Deo gratias at the dismissal; and Amen at the blessing. Ibid, pp. 36-38.
Pius XII had already encouraged efforts in this direction in 1947: “Therefore, they are to be praised who, with the idea of getting the Christian people to take part more easily and more fruitfully in the Mass, strive to make them familiar with the Roman Missal, so that the faithful, united with the priest, may pray together in the very words and sentiments of the Church. They also are to be commended who strive to make the liturgy even in an external way a sacred act in which all who are present may share. This can be done in more than one way, when, for instance, the whole congregation, in accordance with the rules of the liturgy, either answer the priest in an orderly and fitting manner, or sing hymns suitable to the different parts of the Mass or do both or, finally, in high Masses when they answer the prayers of the minister of Jesus Christ and also sing the liturgical chant. (Mediator Dei § 105)
12. Graduale Romanum: De Ritibus Servandis in Cantu Missae, Rome, 1908, pp. xiv-xvi. The rubrics referred only to the singing of the choir and the cantors; there was no mention of a role for the congregation.
13. Council of Trent, session 4, April 8, 1546, Decree Concerning the Edition and the Use of the Sacred Books.
14. In his Motu proprio Cotidianis precibus of March 24, 1945, Pius XII granted permission for the use of the Bea Psalter to priests and all who were obliged to say the Divine Office. And two years later he extended this permission for any liturgical use. See De usu novi Psalterii latini extra horas canonicas (The use of the new Latin Psalter beyond the Canonical Hours), October 22, 1947, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 39 (1947), p. 508.
15. Bea made this “chauvinistic” judgement in the Introduction to the first edition of his New Psalter. See the Liber Psalmorum published by the Pontifical Institute of Biblical Studies, Rome, 1945, p. xxvi. But it was simply a common prejudice found among those who confuse Vulgate Latin with Vulgar Latin (the language once used by Roman soldiers, colonists and farmers). The classical scholar, Christine Mohrmann, explained: “Liturgical Latin is not Classical Latin, but neither is it, as is so often said, the Latin that was considered decadent by educated people.” Liturgical Latin: Its Origin and Character, CUA Press, 1957, p. 60.
16. Even in Bea’s day, the prejudice against ecclesiastical Latin as infima latinitas (the lowest form of Latinity) was already outdated, which shows that he himself was behind the times and unwilling to acknowledge with pride the unique contribution of the Vulgate in the transmission of the Faith in the Church and in Western culture.
In the estimation of Church musicians, the new chants are unmelodious. Even when recited, the words do not exactly roll off the tongue, as with the traditional Psalter. That is because the authors of the new Psalter tried to force the natural rhythm of the Vulgate version to match the rhythm of Classical Latin poetry and its laws of “quantitative” meter. Unsurprisingly, the Bea Psalter was not a success; most of the religious communities refused to accept it. One of the few who did accept it was the Benedictine monastery of En Calcat in France. It was there, incidentally, that Dom Lambert Beauduin had spent some years of his banishment by Pius XI for his “ecumenical” activities and his opposition to any form of proselytism.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
A ‘Crazy Patchwork’ of Incongruous Elements
Taken from here [slightly adapted - emphasis mine].

The 19th century Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Nicholas Wiseman, has shown how the Holy Week services were “an aggregate of religious observances, gradually framed in the Church, not by a cold and formal enactment, but by the fervid manifestations of the devout impressions of every age, till they have acquired a uniform, consistent and compact form.” (1)

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Card. Wiseman warned against abolishing the liturgical customs of the ages

That was, of course, how the liturgy was formed in the early centuries until it reached a stage of such excellence as to be codified in that form by Pope Pius V. But it was otherwise with Pius XII whose “cold and formal enactment” of 16 November 1955 destroyed rites that have long been understood as the very heart and centre of the Church’s year.

“In attending them,” Card. Wiseman assured the faithful, “you may consider yourselves as led by turns to every period of religious antiquity … the same spirit has presided over the institution of them all. To abolish them, to substitute a new, systematic, formal and coldly meditated form, would be in truth a vandalism, a religious barbarism, of which the Catholic Church is quite incapable.” (2)

Who would have thought that in the very next century after His Eminence had spoken those fateful words, there would be Popes, starting with Pius XII, who proved quite capable of earning that shameful reputation in History?

Palm Sunday was Only the Opening Gambit

The progressivist reformers did not limit their depredations to Palm Sunday. Their policy of cutting out traditional prayers and ceremonies and sewing on alien pieces turned the rest of Holy Week into a “crazy patchwork” of incongruous elements guaranteed to destroy the continuity and harmony of the traditional rites.

As we shall see from the evidence below, all the “cuts” had the effect of:
  • Reducing the solemnity of the rites and the honor due to God;
  • Obscuring some doctrines of the Faith;
  • Minimizing the status of the priest;
  • Depriving the Holy Week liturgy of some of its linguistic and musical heritage.
And all the extraneous patches that were tacked on had been fabricated by the reformers and had the effect of:
  • Promoting the self-fulfilment of the laity through “active participation;”
  • Downgrading the liturgy to meet that alleged need.
We now know that the progressivists willed these effects to occur and planned them decades in advance while Pius XII actually took steps to bring them into existence. It is not clear, however, whether Pius XII realized – though the reformers certainly did – that when he removed much of the mystical symbolism of the Holy Week rites and substituted innovations he was creating prototypes of future reforms, which would revolutionize the whole of the Roman Rite.

It is clear that these prototypes were the practical outcome of a coherent, integrated set of principles developed by the progressivists to achieve the above-mentioned effects. But we must note that they did not apply them comprehensively to the Holy Week liturgy, but rather in a piecemeal fashion, and sometimes only as an option, so as not to provoke too strong a reaction from the faithful and, so, endanger the future reforms that they had envisaged.

Let us consider some examples taken from the Triduum ceremonies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday:

The Mandatum or Foot-Washing Ceremony

Now, we come to a reform which did not arise spontaneously from the devotion of the people, and which nobody except the progressivists wanted and, certainly, no one requested or needed. Pius XII introduced a ceremony that had no precedent in the History of the Church: the washing of the feet of laymen during the Mass of Holy Thursday.

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The mandatum was traditionally for clerics, a reflection of Christ washing the feet of the Apostles. 
After many abuses we see, below, Francis washing the feet of Muslim & Hindu male & female refugees

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What is most disturbing about this innovation is that it originated from the most extreme wing of the Liturgical Movement, as Fr. Hermann Schmidt S.J., Professor of Liturgy at the Gregorianum, Rome, candidly admitted:

“It was during the Liturgical Congress at Lugano in 1953 that we proposed, not without opposition, putting the foot washing after the chanting of the Gospel at Mass. … It is a new evolution in the history of the mandatum. (3) [emphasis in the original]

The rubrics state that this can take place in the sanctuary (“in medio presbyterii”) after the homily. This is in marked contrast to the rubrics of the pre-1955 Missale Romanum, which stipulated that after the stripping of the altars, the clergy gathered together for the foot washing ceremony (conveniunt Clerici ad faciendum Mandatum). This was to take place in a specially designated area (in loco ad id deputato), which was usually a chapter house or a priest’s residence or a different part of the church building where the ceremony could be performed in privacy and without the participation of laymen.

The first point to note about Pius XII’s innovation is the cacophony of symbols it presents.
In fact, when viewed against the backdrop of liturgical tradition, the whole ceremony abounds in anomaly.

This was the first papally sanctioned use of the sanctuary for the purposes of “active participation” by the laity. It may have seemed a small concession in 1955 and few people, then, realized the threat such an innovation posed to the priesthood. But History has shown that it acted as a snowball that gathered an unstoppable momentum until, with the proliferation of lay ministries in the liturgy in the 1970s, it completely submerged the uniqueness of the priesthood.

Clericalizing the Laity

Theologically, there ensued some adverse results, which could have been foreseen and avoided. By giving lay people privileges to enter the sanctuary and therein perform liturgical functions hitherto reserved for the clergy, Pius XII opened the way to undermining the role of the ordained ministers.

It was inevitable that the effect of this radical innovation would not only blur the distinction between the priest and the non-ordained members of the Church, but also create confusion over the architectural expression of that distinction: the sanctuary for the clergy and the nave for the people. And it is equally obvious that this weakened concept of the priesthood would, in turn, lead to the re-ordering of churches or the building of new ones to express the “new theology” that exalted the laity and diminished the role of the priest.

In short, the reformed Holy Thursday rite fails to invoke the spiritual connections that were inherent in the traditional liturgy and its supporting architecture, both of which helped reinforce what the priesthood means. It is also clear that this particular reform went hand in hand with the progressivists’ revolutionary ideas of what a church is, how it should function and what message it should proclaim: the democratization of the People of God.


1. Nicholas Wiseman, Four lectures on the offices and ceremonies of Holy Week, as performed in the Papal chapels delivered in Rome in the Lent of 1837, London: C. Dolman, 1839, p. 145.
2. Ibid., p. 146.
3. H. Schmidt S.J. (ed.), Hebdomada Sancta, 2 vols., Rome: Herder, 1956-1957, vol. 2, p. 775.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Laymen Introduced in the Foot Washing
Taken from here [slightly adapted - emphasis mine].

Before looking further into the phenomenon of lay people having their feet washed in the sanctuary, it would be useful to keep in mind the sort of thinking among the progressivists that led up to it.

Ever since Beauduin launched his famous dictum at the Malines Conference in 1909 about “active participation” as the right of the laity, his slanderous accusation gained ground through the Liturgical Movement that a dominating clergy had been for centuries unjustly depriving lay people of their rightful role in the liturgy.

When Pius XII came to the defense of the so-called lay “victims” by granting them more active roles in the liturgy, he was not only lending support to the reformers’ clerical-lay conflict theory, but also unwittingly creating conflict among the clergy. There were voices raised not only among the clergy, but also the laity against the various reforms of Holy Week. Where all this was leading to was the perfect Marxist-style bellum omnium contra omnes (war of all against all), which would be played out at Vatican II.

The Traditional Understanding of the Mandatum

As part of the liturgy of Holy Thursday, the Mandatum was, according to longstanding tradition, a ritual performed among priests, based on Christ’s example of washing the feet of the 12 Apostles at the Last Supper. It is not to be confused with the so-called “Mandatum of the Poor,” (1) an entirely separate ceremony that existed alongside its clerical counterpart. Whereas the latter included laymen, the former was a discreet service performed by clerics and for clerics away from the public gaze. Up to 1955, there was no official approval for either form of ablution to take place in the sanctuary or during the Mass of Holy Thursday.

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The Pope washing the feet of other clergymen in the late 19th century

Here we are considering only the ancient tradition whereby a religious Superior (Pope, Bishop or Abbot) would wash the feet of clerics under his charge. It was always understood to be a ritual re-enactment of the actions of Christ when He washed the feet of the 12 Apostles to make them worthy of priestly service at the altar. (2)

The theological symbolism of the traditional ceremony spoke volumes about its meaning: it was a commemoration of the priesthood on the anniversary of its institution and, thus, intimately related to the Sacrament of Holy Orders. We will need to keep this in mind when we come to consider the inclusion of laymen in 1955 (and later lay women) into the ceremony.

The history of the Liturgical Movement has shown how the harmful nature of the reforms is never more sharply exposed than over the issue of lay “active participation” and the consequent steady diminution of the priesthood. The 1955 reform of the Mandatum is a good example of this baneful process, as it illustrates the reformers’ strategy of deconstructing a liturgical ritual and subverting its principles.

Bypassing the Mandatum’s Significance

In this they were aided by the Instruction issued by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, which accompanied Pius XII’s Decree Maxima Redemptionis introducing the Holy Week reforms in 1955.

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At first the change allowed only laymen on the altar for the Mandatum on Holy Thursday

This Instruction, together with the rubrics of the new Ordo of Holy Week, acted as a sort of “game-changer” by introducing a new element into the Mandatum that would produce a significant change in its meaning. All the Instruction says about the foot washing is that it is a demonstration of Christ’s “fraternal love” and an example for the faithful to engage in acts of “Christian charity.” (3)

The inclusion of laymen (“viri selecti”) in what had hitherto been an all-clerical ceremony completely changed the way future generations of Catholics thought about Christ’s actions at the Last Supper when He washed the feet of His Apostles.

Small wonder that so many have lost sight of the fact that the original Mandatum was not intended for Christ’s followers in general, but only those whom He had personally called to the priesthood. How, then, could laymen be said to represent the Apostles in a ceremony that was meant to commemorate the institution of Holy Orders and the exercise of the priestly ministry?

Ratcheting up the Reform

To bestow this privilege upon laymen could only threaten to undermine the identity by which the priesthood is defined. This was an early phase of the reformers’ end-game strategy.

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Before long, every abuse entered. Above, Card. Bergoglio washing the feet of an unwed mother;
below, with drug abusers
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With it they turned the ratchet of liturgical confusion another notch. Having first stigmatized all priests as “elitist” who said the Mass in its entirety while the congregation remained silent, they turned the ratchet by promoting vocal participation as a “right” of the laity to say Mass with the priest. They turned it again when they persuaded Pius XII to allow laymen to enter the sanctuary and stand in the place of priests.

Thus, a precedent was set in 1955 for the post-Vatican II introduction of “lay ministries” to supplant the traditional role of the priest. Pius XII’s promotion of the foot washing of the laity became the emblem of the liturgical chaos that undermined the role of the priest. It matters not that the ceremony was only optional; its consequences were far reaching.

Once the principle had been breached and the essential meaning lost, secularism has made its way into the ranks of the priesthood and even into the sanctuary where priests always exercised their exclusive ministry. That which is supernatural and transcendent was made to yield to the democratic spirit of the modern age and adapt itself to an earthly end.

Hence the liturgical free-for-all we see today where literally everyone and anyone can have their feet washed in the name of equality, diversity and inclusiveness. As a result, the Mandatum has now turned into a political platform for immigration and other fashionable shibboleths, making a mockery of liturgical law, spirituality and tradition.

Absurd though it may be, this is just the logical conclusion of having reinvented the Mandatum as community service, (4) with the priest as social worker. Thus, we have arrived at a point where the priesthood is no longer honored in this rite as a supernatural benefit to the Church – as it had been honored since the early Middle Ages – but only insofar as it furthers the ideology of “equality” for all.


1. Historical sources dating from the 7th century show that this was a ceremony conducted by religious Superiors who washed the feet of a group of poor men on Maundy Thursday and often accompanied this gesture with a gift of food, clothing and/or money. In medieval times, this ceremony was usually carried out by the Pope in his private apartment, by Bishops in the chapter house and also by Abbots in the refectory of their monastic houses.
2. They would have been aware of the significance of the occasion: the fulfilment of the Old Testament ceremony of foot washing as a pre-requisite for offering sacrifice at the altar. (Exodus 30:17-21) Our Lord explained that He was giving them a “part” in His priestly ministry. (John 13:8)
3. Maxima Redemptionis, ‘Instructio’, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 1955, p. 843.
4. To illustrate this point, the US Bishops’ Committee for Divine Worship issued a statement in January 2016 condoning their longstanding departure from liturgical law. Quoting from a 1987 document in which they had included women in the foot washing ceremony, they stated: “While this variation may differ from the rubric of the Sacramentary which mentions only men (“viri selecti”), it may nevertheless be said that the intention to emphasize service along with charity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord, “who came to serve and not to be served,” that all members of the Church must serve one another in love.”
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Changing the Meaning of Our Lord’s Mandatum
Taken from here [slightly adapted - emphasis mine].

Most Catholics who have attended a Holy Thursday foot washing service would, if asked, be inclined to explain its significance in a manner not dissimilar to Protestants – that is, as a symbol of the charity and humble service that all Christ’s followers must practice towards one another. That is what the Mandatum has now been reduced to – an exhortation to mutual aid: you wash my feet, I’ll wash yours, metaphorically speaking.

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The Catholic Mandatum now looks like the Anglican foot washing, above, the Bishop of Wales

This impression has no doubt been induced by the sight of a preponderance of laymen upstaging the clergy in the sanctuary to have their feet washed. It came originally from Pius XII’s – or rather Bugnini’s – 1955 Instruction, which gave a secular twist to the Mandatum by presenting it as a charter for general benevolence.

That was not, however, how it was perceived throughout the history of the liturgy, particularly by Patristic writers (1) and medieval theologians, none of whom taught that Christ’s action of washing His disciples’ feet was a sign of indiscriminate service to mankind, as is commonly taught today. (2)

It has always been understood that the priesthood of Aaron and the Levites in the Old Testament – all of whom underwent ritual foot washing before service at the altar – was a prefiguring of the Mandatum when Christ prepared His Apostles to become priests of the New Covenant by washing their feet. It was because of this understanding that the Church Fathers gave the Mandatum a mystical interpretation, one that required the Apostles to be cleansed from sin and made like unto Christ.

In other words, the ancient Christian custom of the Mandatum was about the status and identity of the priest as alter Christus. Its exclusive nature as an all-clerical ceremony, as preserved in the traditional Holy Thursday ceremony, was intended to illustrate this identification of Bishops and priests as “other Christs” – which explains why it was distinct from any other kind of foot washing that existed in Church History. (3)

The only explanation, then, that makes liturgical sense is the traditional, hierarchical one: The successors of the Apostles imitate Christ by washing the feet of the clergy who are subject to them: priests, deacons, subdeacons, canons and monks.

A Faux Symbolism

That was the situation until 1955 when Pius XII’s Commission altered its complexion and meaning by allowing laymen to replace the clergy. It was a calculated decision of the progressivists, motivated by their antipathy to the hierarchical nature of the Church and it was made with full awareness of the likely consequences.

Unsurprisingly, it played into the hands of those who challenged the exalted status of the ministerial priesthood. Cardinal Yves Congar stated:
Quote:“We are still far from drawing the consequences of the rediscovery of the fact that the entire Church is one single People of God and that the faithful compose it along with the clergy.

"Implicitly, unwillingly and even unconsciously, we have the idea that the Church is composed of the clergy, and that the faithful are merely their beneficiaries or clientele. This horrible conception is inscribed in so many structures and customs that it appears to be set in stone, unable to change. It is a betrayal of the truth. There is still much to be done to de-clericalize our conception of the Church.” (4)

Pope Francis seconded this with his obliquely accusatory statement that lay people are not “second class members” of the Church. (5)

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At Francis' invitation, today even women wash the feet of other parishioners

Progressivists thrive on this kind of cryptic ambiguity created by the proponents of the “new theology” in order to accuse the Church of having lost the truth and to blur the essential distinction between the clergy and the laity.

We cannot fail to notice that, as a result of this reform, the focus of the Mandatum was suddenly switched to the Protestant “priesthood of the laity,” while that of the ordained minister is constantly being undermined.

Indeed, there is clear evidence of this in Vatican II’s promotion of the laity to official positions traditionally occupied by priests in the Church.

From being a privileged institution on account of its fundamental role in building the Church – the first Apostles were, after all, its nucleus – the priesthood has passed into a kind of limbo, deliberately marginalized as a function of no great consequence, just one of those myriad “jobs” to be performed by the faithful, to which they are allegedly entitled by reason of their common Baptism.


1. St. Jerome (Epistle to Pope Damasus) stated that the purpose of Christ’s washing of His Disciples’ feet was to prepare them for their duty to preach the Gospel; St. Ambrose (De Sacramentis Book 3, Chapter 1) saw the foot washing as an “aid to sanctification” for the Apostles to resist the assaults of the Devil and concupiscence so as to lead lives of purity befitting their ministry.
St. Augustine (Commentary 56 on the Gospel of John 13:6-10) saw it as a means of purification from contact with earthly things so that hearts may be “turned upwards toward the Lord” and “enabled to dwell in His presence.” This same theme of purification of the soul was used by St. Bernard, St. Cyprian and St. Gregory in their interpretation of the foot washing at the Last Supper.
2. If humble service, such as the corporal works of mercy or helping the disadvantaged, was what Christ had in mind, the Apostles would have become glorified social workers. But in the Acts of the Apostles we find them specifically rejecting this interpretation in favor of the highest service that Christ had intended for them at the Mandatum, that of the priesthood:
“Then the twelve, calling together the multitude of the disciples, said: It is not right that we should leave the Word of God and serve tables … But we will devote ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” (Acts 6:2, 4)
3. The first Christians undertook this task among themselves as a simple act of charity, recommended by St. Paul (1 Tim. 5:10). Foot washing was also practiced routinely in medieval monasteries both among the monks and as a gesture of hospitality towards guests. On Holy Thursday the Abbot would wash the feet of 12 monks, but this was not part of the liturgy.
4. Yves Congar O.P., Mon Journal du Concile, Vol. 1, Eric Mahieu, (ed.), Paris: Cerf, 2000, pp. 135-6.
5. From a November 15, 2015, letter to the Pontifical Council of the Laity marking the 50th anniversary of Vatican II’s Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
The Liturgical Reform’s Ecumenical Hues
Taken from here [slightly adapted - emphasis mine].

Before looking at the 1955 reform of the Sacred Triduum ceremonies (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday), it would be useful to recall that the Church from Apostolic times to the 20th century never failed to maintain an attitude of reverence towards liturgical tradition. The reason is precisely that it was the vehicle for protecting the deposit of the Faith. Here the principle lex orandi lex credendi applies: if the liturgy undergoes a radical alteration, so will the faith of the people.

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Card. Vaughan: ‘We must adhere rigidily to the rite handed down to us’

The 19th century Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Herbert Vaughan, rejecting the liturgical changes made by Cranmer in the 16th century, explained the importance of the Catholic Church’s adherence to Tradition:

Quote:“They must not omit or reform anything in those forms which immemorial Tradition has bequeathed to us. For such an immemorial usage, whether or not it has in the course of ages incorporated superfluous accretions, must, in the estimation of those who believe in a divinely guarded, visible Church, at least have attained whatever is necessary; so that in adhering rigidly to the rite handed down to us, we can always feel secure; whereas if we omit or change anything, we may perhaps be abandoning just that element which is essential. And this sound method is that which the Catholic Church has always followed. …

"That in earlier times local churches were permitted to add new prayers and ceremonies is acknowledged … but that they were also permitted to subtract prayers and ceremonies in previous use and even to remodel the existing rites in the most drastic manner, is a proposition for which we know of no historical foundation and which appears to us incredible. Hence Cranmer, in taking this unprecedented course, acted, in our opinion, with the most inconceivable rashness.” (1)

Fortunately, Card. Vaughan was spared the harrowing experience of witnessing a 20th century Cranmer, Archbishop Bugnini, wreaking unprecedented destruction on the immemorial Tradition of the Roman Rite with the support of reigning Popes.

In our comparison between the pre-1955 Sacred Triduum ceremonies and the reform of Pius XII, we cannot fail to notice how many traditional elements were subtracted by Bugnini from the whole ensemble. These ranged from small (though not insignificant) details – such as the odd versicle or vestment plucked from the rites like petals from a rose – to whole swathes of ancient texts carved out of the Roman Rite as if by a scythe in the hands of a demented reaper.

We may well wonder at such a tactic which, at a blow, shattered the Church’s millennial custom of prudent conservation. But there was method in the reformers’ madness. Whether the “cuts” were major or minor, they had a rationale behind them. They were all part of a war of attrition being waged against the traditional liturgy, starting with the gutting of the Holy Week ceremonies, which had given the clearest possible expression to the fundamental truths of the Catholic Faith.

These included the Holy Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, the fall of man, the heinousness of sin and its consequences, the history of our Redemption – all central mysteries of Christianity, which had featured prominently in the traditional Triduum but which were either eliminated or minimized in the reform.

As we consider the details of the reform of the 1955 Triduum, let us keep in mind what the subsequent history of the liturgy has made clear – that it was the beginning of the break-up and diminution of the traditional lex orandi, the thin edge of the wedge driven into the Roman Rite by progressivist reformers to separate the faithful from their spiritual and liturgical patrimony.

Why exclude the Holy Trinity?

It should not go unnoticed that when the new Holy Week rites were published in 1956, one of the antiphons sung during the Mandatum on Holy Thursday was strangely missing. Bugnini had excised it together with its corresponding versicle (Psalm 83:2).

What was considered to be so objectionable about it? It had a similar theme and wording to the Introit of the Feast of Holy Trinity. (2) As every Mass is offered to the Holy Trinity, this antiphon was a most fitting theme linking the Mandatum to the ordination of priests at the Last Supper. The liturgy is now silent about this connection.

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A medieval manuscript depicting the Holy Trinity stressing Christ’s sacrifice to redeem mankind

Bugnini was intent on culling as much Trinitarian symbolism as possible in the traditional liturgy, as we can see, for example, in the disappearance of the triple candle used at the Easter Vigil and, in 1969, prayers to the Holy Trinity in the traditional Mass. (3)

The suppression of the Trinitarian antiphon indicates an underlying intention towards future developments in “inter-religious dialogue” when the Mandatum would eventually be open to people of all faiths. It could hardly be expected that Muslims, for example, would consent to have their feet washed to a hymn of praise to the Holy Trinity. Better to exclude the Holy Trinity, it was thought, than non-Christians.

Also significant was the loss of the versicle from Psalm 83:2, which accompanied the antiphon: “How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!” The prophet David, looking into the future and longing for Heaven, foresaw something of the supernatural reality of Heaven in the Church, which Christ, by His constant Presence in her tabernacles, established on earth for our salvation.

It is not difficult to see what was problematic here for the reformers: the traditional Mandatum clashed with their idea of some nebulous, utopian “Supra-Church,” to which all creeds apparently belong, leading to Vatican II’s false teaching that non-Catholic religions are efficacious for salvation.

Nor is it surprising that since the 1955 reforms, the faithful have been continually shaken and rendered uncertain in their faith in the Church as the one Ark of Salvation, with the result that most Catholics have become either indifferent or hostile to this truth.


1. Card. Herbert Vaughan, A vindication of the Bull Apostolicae curae, London: Longmans Green, 1898, pp. 42-44. Card. Vaughan, Archbishop of Westminster from 1892 to 1903, came from a recusant Catholic family who had suffered persecution in the 17th century for attending Mass, but who persevered in the Faith. He was greatly impressed by the piety of his mother, a convert to Catholicism, who prayed earnestly for religious vocations for her 13 children. 11 of them became priests or nuns; 3 of the priests became Bishops and the remaining 2 children spent some time in a seminary.
2. Before the 1955 reform, the 8th antiphon of the Mandatum began as follows: Benedicta sit Sancta Trinitas atque indivisa Unitas: confitebimur ei, quia fecit nobiscum misericordiam suam. “Blessed be the Holy and Undivided Trinity: we will give glory to Him because He hath shown His mercy to us.” These words were identical to the opening sentence of the Introit of the Holy Trinity.
3. For example, Suscipe Sancta Trinitas which the priest recites during the Offertory, and Placeat tibi, Sancta Trinitas, before the final blessing.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
How the Office of Tenebrae Was Sabotaged

Taken from here [slightly adapted - emphasis mine].

Among the liturgical treasures of Holy Week targeted by the reformers was the ancient service of Tenebrae (a Latin word meaning darkness) – so called because of its gradual extinguishing of lights – which had a continuous history of use in the Church since at least the 7th century until 1955. Yet many Catholics today have not the slightest notion that such a service ever existed in the Church, let alone what it entailed or what it was meant to signify, so great were the progressivists’ efforts to keep them, in quite another sense, in the dark.

Tenebrae consisted of two components of the Divine Office, Matins and Lauds, which originated from the monastic liturgy and were chanted by the monks after midnight and before dawn respectively. But from the early Middles Ages, the Church, wishing to make these “hours” available during Holy Week at a more convenient time for the faithful, joined them into one single service to be performed on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings, thus anticipating Matins and Lauds of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

The distinctive character of Tenebrae

The traditional service was characterized by a number of special features, which gave it a striking figurative power, making it an unforgettable experience for the faithful. This was achieved by a unique interplay between light and darkness, sacred texts and chant that moved those present to the very depths of their soul.

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A dramatic service where a candle is extinguished after the chanting of each Psalm

And it was rich in scriptural passages bearing theological, mystical and allegorical meanings that had been specially chosen to arouse feelings of grief and compassion for the sufferings of Our Lord and, consequently, of sorrow and detestation of sin, which was their cause.

The whole service was conducted in an atmosphere of solemn mourning. The Lamentations of Jeremiah were sung in the so-called Planctus (“weeping”) tone specific to certain parts of Holy Week which, however, fell out of favor after 1955. Together with the responsories, antiphons and Psalm 50 (Miserere), they are universally recognized as the most sublime examples of choral music in the Church’s repertoire, made famous by celebrated composers e.g. Palestrina, Allegri, Victoria and Tallis.

The ceremony was usually timed to begin in the early evening, when the natural light was fading from the sky and to end in complete darkness. The main source of illumination in the church was candle light, and all eyes were directed to 6 candles on the main altar and 15 on a triangular candlestick called a hearse, (1) symbolizing the Holy Trinity.

After each Psalm was chanted (9 for Matins, 5 for Lauds), one of the candles on the hearse was extinguished, leaving the one at the apex (representing Christ) still burning. While the canticle known as the Benedictus was chanted at the end of Lauds, the six candles on the high altar were also extinguished sequentially, alternating from side to side. Near the end of the ceremony, two dramatic events, highly charged with theological significance, were enacted.

First, the “Christ candle” was removed and temporarily hidden behind the altar, plunging the whole sanctuary into darkness – a symbolic reminder of what it is like to be deprived of Christ, the Light of the World. (John 8:12)

Second, the sudden irruption of the strepitus (Latin for a loud noise) produced by banging books against the pews, filled the darkness.

It was meant to invoke the earthquake that happened after the Crucifixion, the convulsion of nature that accompanied the death of its Author. Lastly, the “Christ candle” was reinstated on the hearse as a sign of the Resurrection, and all departed in silence.

It may be difficult to believe, but Psalm 50 – the Miserere – was almost completely eliminated from the Divine Office of the entire Triduum. (2) As a mark of its importance in the spiritual life of the Church, it used to be said both at the beginning and at the end of Lauds, as well as at the end of all the Hours of the Triduum. But, the reform prohibited its recitation at the conclusion of all the Hours of the Triduum, leaving only the one at the beginning of Lauds. Thus, the reform greatly restricted the frequency of the Miserere – the most penitential of all the Psalms.

This practically banished the Allegri’s Miserere whose hauntingly beautiful melody and ethereal quality were the high point of the traditional Tenebrae service and which, in the words of Card. Wiseman, were capable of “leaving on the soul a solemn impression of harmonious feeling which no words I have could describe.” (3)

Ironically, in spite of being sabotaged in 1956, Allegri’s Miserere has maintained its appeal outside the Church, not only in Anglican and Lutheran services of Tenebrae, but most especially in the concert hall where it continues to enjoy worldwide acclaim.

Its restriction was bound to have profound implications for the Catholic moral life, far beyond the loss of its cultural or musical value. It is not without significance that the Miserere was David’s prayer of repentance and plea for forgiveness after his adultery with Bathsheba.

As the liturgy is, in accordance with the adage lex orandi lex credendi, the prophetic witness of the Church’s Faith, it not only speaks – or, in this case, sings – what God has appointed us to believe, but also encourages us to live a life of holiness in obedience to the Divine Commandments.

Unfortunately, regarding the faithful who had been attracted and edified by the Miserere, its restriction was a misfortune for the Church, because its doctrinal impact was greatly diminished. Among other consequences, the current failure to address moral issues concerning the 6th Commandment, particularly adultery, from a Catholic perspective can be traced back to its origin in the 1956 reforms. (4)


1. Although the number of candles varied throughout the Middle Ages, the triangular shape of the stand is of ancient origin. It was used during the Tenebrae service as mentioned in an Ordo (book of ceremonials) of the 7th century published by the historian Mabillon, which suggests an even earlier usage.
2. This order was given in Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae (The New Order of Holy Week) published by the Sacred Congregation of Rites in January 1956.
3. Nicholas Wiseman, Four lectures on the offices and ceremonies of Holy Week, C. Dolman, London, 1839, p. 7.
4. In his General Audience of March 30, 2016, Pope Francis mentioned this Psalm in connection with God’s forgiveness for the sin of adultery. But, departing from the teaching of the Council of Trent, he made no clear reference to the necessary conditions for obtaining Divine mercy – repentance and a firm purpose of amendment. He said nothing whatsoever about the necessity of penance or reparation.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

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