Amidst the joy that I and so many people have felt at the election of Pope Francis, I have also encountered worry, alarm, even anger from some Catholics who are afraid that the Holy Father has been hostile toward the extraordinary form of the Mass and will reverse all of the liturgical decisions of Pope-emeritus Benedict. You can read more at any number of other blogs.
I am a bit baffled by the whole thing. I admit that it’s not entirely clear to me what the Holy Father’s stance is on the EF. I’ve read that the attempt to implement it in Buenos Aires crashed and burned. I don’t know if that can be blamed on the Holy Father. Here are some things that do seem clear to me and give me reason not to be too concerned:
1. He loves and respects Pope Emeritus Benedict. At the very least, I can’t imagine him tossing Summorum Pontificum into the garbage. I can’t imagine him disparaging or discouraging its implementation. Its implementation may not be a priority for him. He may not say Mass ad orientem or repeat everything that Benedict did. That’s a far cry from destroying the liturgy.
2. Something I have not seen yet in the discussions about liturgy is the fact that he served as bishop to Eastern Rite Catholics in Buenos Aires, as well as Latin Rite Catholics. And apparently he is well-liked and respected by the Ukrainian Catholic Patriarch, who says, among other things:
I would first like to say that the newly elected Pope Francis was mentored by one of our priests, Stepan Chmil who is now buried in the basilica of St. Sophia in Rome. Today’s Pope, during his time as a student of the Salesian school, awoke many hours before his classmates to concelebrate at our Divine Liturgy with Fr. Stepan. He knows our Tradition very well, as well as our Liturgy.
If Pope Francis has a love and understanding of Eastern Divine Liturgy, surely he can’t be all that antagonistic toward the traditional Latin Rite liturgy. It seems to me that anybody who hated the EF would not touch the Divine Liturgy with a ten-foot pole (nor would anybody want them to!). Am I wrong? Has anybody read or heard anything else about his relationship with the Eastern Catholics?
3. The Holy Father seems pretty traditional to me overall. He preaches about the devil, for crying out loud. And that’s a good thing! That’s something that the modern Church needs more than anything.
Mostly, I just think that we need to give him a chance to show us who he is… to not make any hasty judgments… and to not compare him with Pope Emeritus Benedict at every turn. We have to know and respect him on his own terms. To know him based on what we see him do and hear him say.