Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

Catholic World News News Feature

French, Italian intellectuals join in support for Latin Mass December 18, 2006

In separate public statements published on December 16, two groups of French and Italian intellectual leaders have thrown their strong support behind an expected move by Pope Benedict XVI to broaden use of the traditional Latin Mass.

More than 50 French intellectuals, led by René Girard of the Académie Française, joined in Un manifeste en faveur de la messe tridentine (“Manifesto in favor of the Tridentine Mass”), published Saturday in Le Figaro. On the same day the Italian daily, Il Foglio, ran a similar statement, also signed by Girard, along with several other signatories including Antonio Socci and Franco Zeffirelli.

Both published statements begin by noting the media reports that Pope Benedict will soon release a motu proprio liberalizing the use of the traditional liturgy. The Italian statement begins: “I wish to launch an appeal to the world of culture, in support of a decision of Benedict XVI.” The French manifesto declares that the signers “witness our fidelity, our support, and our affection” for the Pontiff.

The French statement quotes the Pope’s statement, written well before his election to the papacy, that the crisis in the Church “is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy.” The manifesto goes on to applaud the Pope’s decision to recognize the new Institute of the Good Shepherd, an institution of French priests dedicated to the Tridentine rite. The Figaro statement notes that the Second Vatican Council called for the Church to recognize all legitimate rites, and “she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way.”

The longer Italian statement predicts that the release of the motu proprio will be “an extraordinarily important event for the Church and even for the culture and history of our civilization.” A generation ago, the Foglio manifesto recalls, a group of secular intellectuals appealed to Pope Paul VI, pleading for the preservation of the Tridentine rite as a treasure of modern culture. These appeals, issued in 1966 and again in 1971, were backed by an impressive list of thinker, writers, and artists including W. H. Auden, Agatha Christie, Jorge Luis Borges, Augusto Del Noce, Graham Greene, Julien Green, Jacques Maritain, François Mauriac, Willim Rees-Mogg, Andres Segovia, and Evelyn Waugh. The participation of so many non-Catholics, the Italian manifesto notes, reflects the fact that “the ancient Latin liturgy is a legacy of all, as is the Sistine Chapel, as it the Gregorian chant.” Maintaining that tradition is crucial, the statement continues, at a time “when our entire European civilization risks to cut off and deny its own roots.”

The Italian statement also quotes then-Cardinal Ratzinger, with his observation that the disappearance of the traditional Missal was devastating, and the “consequences could only be tragic.” The results of that radical change in the Catholic liturgy, the “Socci manifesto” declares, were “disastrous.”

The Italian manifesto concludes with an invitation for others to join in support of the statement, and support of the anticipated move by Pope Benedict.

The Rorate Caeli blog, which provided quick coverage and translations of both the French and Italian statements, has also posted a sample letter to Il Foglio, for those who wish to join in support of the Italian manifesto.