18 August 2022


Ellebracht comments that "This native Latin word [Pontifex], taken from [pre-Christian] Roman cultic language, is used in the ORATIONS to mean bishop"; and, perhaps a trifle tartly, adds "The expression summus pontifex ... as a designation for the Pope is of later origin and does not fall within the scope of this work".

Exactly so. The phrase made its way into the euchology of the Roman Rite when, in 1943, a new Commune (Si diligis) was inserted into the Roman Missal for summis pontificibus. On the Festivals of a canonised pope, if he had previously possessed his own Mass formulae, he was allowed to keep them. But if, before 1943, he had been observed by the use of one of the Communia for bishops, he was now, so it was decreed, to be commemorated instead by the use of this new Pacellian Commune. Its Prayers described popes as Summi Pontifices, supreme or sovereign pontiffs.

I possess an altar Missal in which some conscientious person has inked in the dozens of changes needed in order to give effect to the new ordinance. And the new commune is pasted in at the back. (During the war, papal tinkerings with liturgy could not be imported from the great continental liturgical publishing houses; so this page has the imprimatur of Bishop Edward Myers, with the title Vicarius Generalis deleted and replaced by Vicarius Capitularis.)

This new commune also provided that, in Masses of summi pontifices, the praefatio of the Apostles should be used ... as if a Pope is another Apostle!!! Irvingite!!!!

This was the high tideline of Pacellian aggrandisement of the papal office. Soon (when??) this use of the Preface of the Apostles was withdrawn because of protests. And when the post-Conciliar Missal of 1970 was published, the phrase summus pontifex had disappeared from its communia. It had lasted just 27 years.

It is my view that, in this detail, the change made in the 1970s was desirable. It is one reason why my enthusiasm for the 1962 Missal is rather muted. A mere 27 years do not give a significant liturgical innovation auctoritas.

The impression given by the Pacellian dispensation was that a Pope is an additional tier of the Sacramental Ministries ... so that we would have Deacons, Presbyters, Bishops, and Popes. This unfortunate impression was reinforced when Joseph Ratzinger, after his Abdication, continued to wear a white soutane (a garment associated in the popular mind with the papacy) and to be referred to as Benedict XVI.

During the period when the Great Schism of the West was being resolved, papal claimants accepting demotion were, I think, often given one of the Suburbicarian bishoprics. 

That still seems to me the rational thing to do ... liturgically ... with a former bishop of Rome.


The Saint Bede Studio said...

Father, it is my understanding that after his abdication, Pope Benedict XVI asked to be addressed and referred to as "Father Benedict". He certainly did NOT ask to be referred to as "Benedict XVI". And whilst his cassock is certainly white, it is not the "simar" which is customary for Popes to wear and which his successor wears.

william arthurs said...

My analogy for this is 'How do you manumit a slave?' You can hold the ceremony: or the Master can simply invite the slave to dine with him and his family on the 'top table' at dinner time. That's the Roman way --- and I believe it's the right way. Indeed the late Ian Robinson of the Prayer Book Society pointed out that all the folks in the ASB (and now Common Worship) kalendar have been adopted, by implication, as C of E saints, which you can tell from the rubric which states that if there is no collect provided for the individual, the collect 'For any saint' should be used: William Wilberforce, Evelyn Underhill, George Bell, etc.

vetusta ecclesia said...

If the dress of a Bishop of Rome special to the office I feel that an emeritus should wear it too. The granting of bishoprics in partibus to retired diocesans seems to have been replaced by the emeritus system so that the granting of a suburbicarian see would be anomalous .

Joshua said...

Per impossibile, should I ever be consulted as to potential enrichment of the traditional Missal, I would propose granting the Credo to all Masses of Martyrs and Confessors (including of course those Virgins and Matrons who were not Martyrs), since by definition such saints defended and testified to the truths of the Faith "to the death", or at least through the course of their holy lives. For similar reasons, I would propose the use of the Preface for All Saints and Patron Saints, originally Neo-Gallican, but extended to the EF worldwide by the CDF's decree Quo magis (25 March 2020) at all Masses of Saints:

Vere dignum...: Qui glorificáris in concilio Sanctórum, et eórum coronando mérita, corónas dona tua: qui nobis in eórum praebes et conversatióne exemplum, et communióne consortium, et intercessióne subsidium: ut tantam habentes impósitam nubem testium, per patientiam currámus ad propósitum nobis certámen, et cum eis percipiámus immarcescíbilem gloriae corónam. Per Iesum Christum Dóminum nostrum, cuius sánguine ministrátur nobis intróitus in aeternum regnum. Per quem maiestátem tuam trementes adórant Angeli, et omnes Spirítuum caelestium chori socia exsultatióne concélebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces, ut admitti iubeas, deprecámur, súpplici confessióne dicentes:

Kim Andrew D'Souza said...

The one sound thing about the wider use of the praefatio of the Apostles was that it, alone as far as I know among the prefaces of the Roman Rite, doesn’t only praise but also prays that the True Shepherd not desert His flock, and through the blessed Apostles watch over it and protect it always, so that it may be governed by those appointed shepherds and vicars. The “ut” was in 1970 replaced by “quia” as if we no longer needed to pray for the pope and other successors of the Apostles.

From Fr. Khouri said...

Papa Roncalli in all probability had little idea of the implications of his short lived reform regarding the orations he approved.
In reality they were just another form of ultramontanism and were rightly removed from the new Missal formularies.

While not knowing the age of the current orations for Mass of sainted popes what I have found is the use of the (correct) term, "Vicar of Peter."

Voice from the roof top said...

In India, priests wear white cassocks.