Benedict XVI Celebrates Paul VI Mass “with His Back to the People”

Source: FSSPX News

On January 13, the pope baptized 13 children in the Sistine Chapel. On this occasion, he offered Mass on the ancient altar, under Michelangelo’s  fresco of the Last Judgment. He used the missal of Paul VI in Italian, but was facing the cross and not the people.

In an explanatory note, the Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations gave reasons for this esthetic as well as liturgical order for this change, warning that, this year, the modern wooden altar usually brought in would not be used, but that the pope would instead celebrate on the ancient altar “so as not to disturb the beauty and harmony of this architectural masterpiece, maintaining the celebratory aspects of its structure and making use of a possibility contemplated by liturgical norms.” And it went on to specify: “for this reason, at certain moments during the Mass, the pope had “his back to the congregation and his gaze on the Cross, orientating the attitude and disposition of the whole assembly in this way.”

However, Benedict XVI wore liturgical vestments which had belonged to John Paul II, and used the modern bronze baptismal fonts.

In his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, published in 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger already wanted to “help to rediscover a worthy celebration of the liturgy.  “The position of the priest turned toward the people made the praying congregation a community closed upon itself,” wrote the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, regretting that God be “more and more absent from the scene” and that the Mass become “a one-man show” by the celebrant. He did not wish to “reject entirely, the reforms accomplished during the 20th century,” but invited us “not to look at the priest” and to “turn our common gaze towards the Lord.”

As Hervé Yannou very aptly notes in Le Figaro of January 14: “Benedict XVI has rehabilitated one of the most emblematic aspects of the Mass prior to Vatican II. It is the most manifest expression of his desire, already displayed these past months, to see the new Mass reformed and ‘perfected’ by the integration of some aspects from the old liturgy. (…) By mixing the styles, Benedict XVI wishes to reinforce the “sacrality” of the post-conciliar Mass. He wrote this last July in the letter addressed to all the bishops at the time of the publication of the decree liberalizing the use of the Tridentine Mass: the rites prior to and since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) ‘can be mutually enriching’ and there should not be any rupture between them.” (Sources: Apic/Le Figaro)


Our Comment: This determination to see no doctrinal opposition between the Tridentine Mass and the Mass of Paul VI fits in with “the hermeneutic of continuity” promoted by Benedict XVI in his address to the Curia on December 22, 2005, and according to which there is no rupture between traditional teaching and that of Vatican II, especially concerning religious liberty. To this, Bishop Bernard Fellay answered in an interview granted to the French daily Présent, on July 21, 2007: “We must clearly realize that Benedict XVI means to affirm a continuity between Vatican II and the past. Up to now, it was the custom to say that there had been a change. Today, they tell us there is a continuity, while affirming that there is nevertheless some change. So that we  no longer know what to think… We know that the current line of thinking is born of the German philosophy, and which would lead to a synthesis in the Hegelian meaning of the word. Such is the conclusion reached by the present pope, and this conclusion is downright destructive for the intellect.”