This traditional Catholic pilgrimage to Rome took place on the weekend of October 23-26. It was marked by the overwhelming presence of young people, especially young clergy and seminarians: “Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam” (“To God who gives joy to my youth”).
Rome. It does not happen every day that Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, make their voices heard during the same event. Yet, this is precisely what happened on Saturday morning, October 25, during a solemn pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Rite celebrated by Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, the then-Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. On that day, tradition-minded pilgrims converged on Rome from around the world for the third annual Summorum Pontificum (SP) pilgrimage in Rome “ad Petri sedem,” “cum Petro” and “sub Petro” (“to the See of Peter, with Peter and under Peter”).
“The Holy Father, Pope Francis, addresses his cordial welcome, hoping that taking part in this pious journey to the tomb of the apostle Peter may foster a further attachment to Christ celebrated in the Eucharist and in the public worship of the Church, and hoping also that it may give a renewed impetus to the witness of the perennial message of the Christian faith,” read the message conveyed by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on behalf of the Holy Father. “His Holiness invokes the abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit and the maternal attention of the Mother of God and as he asks you to persevere in prayer for the support of his universal ministry as successor of the apostle Peter, imparts to Your Eminence, bishops, priests and the other faithful present at the sacred liturgy the apostolic blessing.”
And then this: “I am very happy the usus antiquior [more ancient rite] is living today in a fully peaceful way within the Church, including with the youth, and that it is supported and celebrated by great cardinals,” a second message read, this time conveyed by the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI. “I will be spiritually united with you all.”
The reference to the youth in Benedict’s message was not by chance, but a reminder that one of the purposes of this pilgrimage was to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Juventutem (the Fœderatio Internationalis Juventutem in Latin), the international youth movement of young Roman Catholics ages 16 to 36 who are attached to the pre-Vatican II Latin liturgy as the main spiritual tool for their personal sanctification. In fact the most striking feature of this third “Latin Mass” pilgrimage was not so much the quantity factor — the fact that the participants may have numbered more than 1,000, slightly more than last year — but most of all their quality, young families with children and young men and women.
Likewise, the pontifical in St. Peter’s was being celebrated in the presence of 250 mostly young clergy and seminarians. Also present were Cardinal William Levada, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (who had celebrated solemn Vespers in the traditional personal parish of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini the prior Thursday), and a number of senior clerics well known to traditionalists like Msgr. Gilles Wach, Father Nicola Bux, Father Joseph Kramer, Father Giuseppe Vallauri and many others. In the celebration, Cardinal Burke was assisted by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and the youth of the parish of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini. Music was provided by a choir of 20 seminarians from the North American College, conducted by Leon Griesbach and accompanied by Garret Ahlers on the organ.
Pope Benedict himself had already acknowledged the youth factor in the spreading of the traditional liturgy in the letter to the bishops accompanying his motu proprio on July 7, 2007. “Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it,” he wrote at the time, “but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.” And as a sign of encouragement, on September 1, 2014, Benedict XVI received in his monastery residence Cosimo Marti, co-founder and treasurer of the International Federation Juventutem, with Giuseppe Capoccia, general delegate of the pilgrimage “Populus Summorum Pontificum,” who once again wished to express gratitude for his 2007 motu proprio in favor of the old rite.
Another senior prelate to whom Juventutem is particularly grateful is Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. It was he who celebrated the old rite for Juventutem on the occasion of World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005, two years prior to the motu proprio, which marked the first official participation of tradition-minded Catholics in a public event of the Church. It was also the first World Youth Day of the pontificate of Benedict XVI, who on that occasion granted his blessing to Juventutem. He may well have had in mind the thousands of young people of the Federation present at that event when a couple of years later he drafted his letter to the bishops.
Cardinal Pell was also to have celebrated another pontifical for the pilgrims at Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini on the evening of Friday, October 24, but due to bronchitis he was unable to do so and was replaced as main celebrant by his personal secretary and former member of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, Father Mark Withoos, who also read out the homily Cardinal Pell had prepared for the occasion. In a nutshell, he also called on tradition-minded faithful to remain loyal to the Pope and to eschew “sterile polemics against a surprisingly small number of Catholic opponents,” and thus help the Pope preserve the integrity of the traditional doctrine on the family also in view of the 2015 ordinary synod on the family.
The pilgrimage wound up on Sunday, October 26, with two solemn Masses in the Extraordinary Rite, but in different places, for the Feast of Christ the King according to the old calendar, celebrated on October’s last Sunday. For those who remained in Rome, it was in Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini. The second Mass was in Norcia, in the Basilica of San Benedetto, which was built over the birthplace of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica. The first was celebrated by the archbishop of Gradisca and nuncio emeritus to the Netherlands François Robert Bacque. The second was celebrated by the superior of the local community of Benedictines, the US-born Father Cassian Folsom. Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, president Emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, participated in the Mass in Norcia by preaching a splendid homily on the real nature of the Kingdom of God as announced by Our Lord to the Pharisees (Luke 17:20-25) and imparting a papal blessing with a plenary indulgence on behalf of His Holiness Pope Francis.