The Bugninisation of Roman basilicas

Par Don Pio Pace

Français, italiano

Through all periods of history, the liturgy celebrated in Rome has been a model for all churches of Latin rite. As it is though, the Roman Basilica of Saint Peter has just been the scene of some liturgical incidents, minor to all appearances, but nonetheless of grave significance. Showcase of Catholic liturgy, it has received all the attention of Pope Francis. Thus, by appointing archpriest of Saint Peter, on 20 February last, Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, a Franciscan of 55 years old, the pope gave him the particular responsibility to proceed to a bugninisation of the liturgy of the basilica, an operation which is part of a larger plan to give a new vigor, starting from Rome, to the reform of Paul VI.

Saint Peter’s Archbasilica, just as Saint John in the Lateran and Saint Mary Major, has a Chapter of Canons. They are considered prelates of the highest rank with the title of protonotaries. Not at all a click of right winger traditionalists, yet they are classic and maintain, in this high place of Christendom, a very Roman dignity… which actually exasperates the presently reigning pontiff. One day, noticing two of them in their violet choir dress, busy servicing some cardinals, the pope asked: “Who are these priests in technicolor?”

As you recall, on 12 March last, a decision coming from the Secretariat of State has eliminated, from the Basilica, the celebration of individual masses in the ordinary form, to favor concelebrations (the measure particularly targeted members of the Curia who had kept the annoying and archaic habit of celebrating individual masses on the altars of the Basilica, before going to their place of work).

Then, came the interdiction made to the Canons to celebrate the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours), as they were doing everyday in the Chapel of the Immaculate or in the Choir Chapel, near the Sacristy, until they are given new statutes. Though, the specially delegated responsibility of Canons of a cathedral, of a basilica, or of a collegiate church is, first and foremost, the recitation of the Divine Office, official prayer of the Church, prayer of the Spouse to Her Spouse. If in Italy, a few chapters remain still celebrating the Office, this celebration has practically disappeared from most of Europe’s cathedrals, due to the difficulty of attaching priests to this particular function. The interruption of the Divine Office at Saint Peter is a true liturgical heresy which probably had Chrodegand, Bishop of Metz in the VIII century and author of a founding canonical rule, turning in his grave.

And then, on 1 May, as the month of Mary was just starting with the recitation of the rosary in all the churches of Rome, it was expressively forbidden to the venerable Canons to join the pope in his recitation of the rosary, in front of the image of our Lady of Perpetual Help, located in the Gregorian Chapel of the Vatican Basilica. Who could have imagined? Canons, forbidden from reciting the Office and from attending devotional prayers!

A Motu proprio is to be published to reform the statutes of the chapters of the three Roman Archbasilicas. The purpose of this operation being, first of all, to make the liturgies of the basilicas more “alive” and to allow for more “participation”. Furthermore, before or at the time of the publication of the apostolic constitution Prædicate Evangelium, which is to reform the Curia, a major role regarding the way liturgies are celebrated in Rome will be given to the Congregation for Divine Worship which would then, most likely, acquire the responsibility of the Office of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations. Hence the rumors saying that the ultra-Bugninian Mgr Viola would soon head the Congregation, assisted by Mgr Guido Marini, Master of Pontifical Liturgical Ceremonies, serving as Secretary of the Congregation.

A new wave of blandness and banalisation is going to extend over the Roman liturgy. It is true that, considering the level where it is today, the worst is no longer to be feared.

Pio Pace