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ROME, Italy (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis' vicar general has banned Latin Mass clergy and laity in the diocese of Rome from celebrating the Easter Triduum — from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday — according to the Extraordinary Form.
Cardinal Vicar Angelo de Donatis has also "expressly forbidden" the celebration of all other sacraments and sacramentals — including the sacrament of confession — according to the ancient form. The proclamations came in a letter that has stunned Latin Mass Catholics in Rome.
The cardinal vicar of Rome, who is handpicked by the pontiff, serves as the de facto bishop of the city in place of the pope — the official bishop of Rome.
Addressed "to all priests engaged in the pastoral work of the diocese of Rome" and "to all the faithful of the diocese," the vicar general's letter cites Pope Francis' diktat Traditionis Custodes (TC) as the pretext for the ban.
Donatis' letter, dated Oct. 7, was released through unofficial sources Tuesday. Priests serving Latin Mass congregations in Rome told Church Militant they were previously unaware of the letter and speculated that it may have been wrongly dated Oct. 7 instead of Nov. 7.
"It is truly astonishing that Cdl. de Donatis feels it necessary to try to prohibit even the blessings of the old ritual," Dr. Joseph Shaw, president of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) society Una Voce International, told Church Militant.
"This really seems vindictive and hardly calculated to promote the unity of the Church," lamented Shaw, an Oxford academic in medieval philosophy.
Shaw, who is also chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, explained:
This letter appears to go far beyond the letter or spirit of Traditionis Custodes, which does nothing to restrict the celebration of marriage, baptism and other sacraments, as the letter does, or to prevent priests from celebrating Mass in the older form over Easter.
From the point of view of canon law, it must be said clearly that this letter is based on a misreading of TC and should not be regarded as an example to follow in other dioceses. I hope it is speedily clarified in Rome.
In July, Francis issued Traditionis Custodes, canceling Pope Benedict's Summorum Pontificum — the 2007 decree that liberated the TLM by permitting a priest to celebrate the TLM without permission from the Apostolic See or from his bishop.
The cardinal vicar's letter targets the parish of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini — the main center for the TLM in Rome run by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter — a community dedicated to the celebration of the TLM.
The letter also bans the Easter Triduum and sacraments according to the Old Rite in the Basilica of Sts. Celso and Giuliano, administered by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICRSS) — also devoted to celebrating the sacraments in the Old Rite.
Other churches authorized to offer the TLM — like Sts. Dominic and Sixtus, St. Joseph at Capo le Case and St. Anne at the Lateran — are also prohibited from offering the Easter Triduum in the Extraordinary Form.
In his letter, Donatis insists he is exercising "a lively pastoral charity" and the cancellation of Holy Week and other sacraments is for "the spiritual good of the faithful."
Donatis' letter also orders priests celebrating the TLM in Rome to proclaim the Scripture readings in Italian and only according to the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) 2008 translation.
The CEI version contains several innovations, including a mistranslation of Matthew 6:13 and Luke 11:4 as "and do not abandon us to temptation."
Church Militant spoke to two traditionalist priests in Rome who said that Donatis' letter was almost certainly instigated directly by Pope Francis.
One priest suggested the attack on Holy Week "may stem from a desire to placate Jews and keep the peace with the chief rabbi in Rome, putting to rest the controversy about the Good Friday prayer 'for the conversion of the Jews.'"
In the Old Rite, the Great Intercessions of Good Friday include a prayer "for the Jews: that our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts: so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, the savior of all mankind."
"It shows the persecution of traditional Catholics is growing," another priest remarked, citing the words of a high-ranking European bishop at a recent conference in France: "The Old Mass is finished."
"Such a prohibition is even more scandalous because since COVID, the congregation at Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini has almost doubled if not tripled," he said.
"There are more people going to Mass there now than over the last few years. This includes people from all over the world," he noted. "Ironically, numbers have increased after TC. Francis' decree has had the opposite effect, and this may explain the backlash."
The Messa in Latino website slammed Donatis' letter as "the worst (at least so far) and most restrictive implementation of Traditionis Custodes."
"It could only come from the diocese of Rome, which from the heart of Christianity has become the epicenter of the senseless war against the traditional liturgy," the Italian blog commented.
Interestingly, a leaked July 28 letter from Cdl. Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, to Abp. Arthur Roche, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, asks if TC also "abrogates" the celebration of other sacraments, including a Requiem Mass, in the Extraordinary Form.
Roche's reply advocates "pastoral prudence" towards a "full implementation" of TC "for a very limited time only," suggesting bishops are working towards a complete ban of the TLM and sacraments celebrated according to the Old Rite.
Vatican journalist Franca Giansoldati earlier observed Donatis is "considered a loyal executor of Pope Francis' thought," and is "dutifully working to shape the pontiff's diocese according to accurate directives he receives directly from the pope."
In 2019, historian Mirticeli Dias de Medeiros described Donatis as "a major nuisance" because of his "'Franciscan' line of government."
"This leads us to believe the vicar is the name chosen by Pope Francis to be part of the list of papabiles for the next conclave," Medeiros wrote.