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Appeal to the Holy Father

From the British Isles

This appeal was recently sent to Pope Benedict XVI from a number of British intellectuals and public figures. (Source: Rorate Caeli).

In 1971 many leading British and international figures, among whose number were Yehudi Menuhin, Agatha Christie, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Nancy Mitford, Graham Greene, Joan Sutherland, and Ralph Richardson, presented a petition to His Holiness Pope Paul VI asking for the survival of the traditional Roman Catholic Mass on the grounds that it would be a serious loss to western culture. The then Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Heenan himself appealed to Pope Paul for the continued celebration of the traditional Mass. The full text of this appeal in 1971 was:

“If some senseless decree were to order the total or partial destruction of basilicas or cathedrals, then obviously it would be the educated – whatever their personal beliefs – who would rise up in horror to oppose such a possibility. Now the fact is that basilicas and cathedrals were built so as to celebrate a rite which, until a few months ago, constituted a living tradition. We are referring to the Roman Catholic Mass. Yet, according to the latest information in Rome, there is a plan to obliterate that Mass by the end of the current year. One of the axioms of contemporary publicity, religious as well as secular, is that modern man in general, and intellectuals in particular, have become intolerant of all forms of tradition and are anxious to suppress them and put something else in their place. But, like many other affirmations of our publicity machines, this axiom is false. Today, as in times gone by, educated people are in the vanguard where recognition of the value of tradition in concerned, and are the first to raise the alarm when it is threatened. We are not at this moment considering the religious or spiritual experience of millions of individuals. The rite in question, in its magnificent Latin text, has also inspired a host of priceless achievements in the arts – not only mystical works, but works by poets, philosophers, musicians, architects, painters and sculptors in all countries and epochs.

“Thus, it belongs to universal culture as well as to churchmen and formal Christians. In the materialistic and technocratic civilisation that is increasingly threatening the life of mind and spirit in its original creative expression – the word – it seems particularly inhuman to deprive man of word-forms in one of their most grandiose manifestations. The signatories of this appeal, which is entirely ecumenical and non-political, have been drawn from every branch of modern culture in Europe and elsewhere. They wish to call to the attention of the Holy See, the appalling responsibility it would incur in the history of the human spirit were it to refuse to allow the Traditional Mass to survive, even though this survival took place side by side with other liturgical reforms.”

This appeal in 1971 came at a crucial time in the history of civilisation when the future of the traditional Latin “Tridentine” Mass was in jeopardy. Pope Paul VI graciously acknowledged this appeal and the traditional Mass was saved, at least in England and Wales. Since this momentous appeal in 1971 the traditional Latin Mass has prospered once again among the faithful worldwide and is now celebrated in almost every country in the world. Now, in 2007, there is great hope and expectation that this treasure of civilisation will be freed from its current restrictions. We, the signatories of this petition, wish to associate ourselves to the sentiments expressed in the petition of 1971 which, perhaps, are even more valid today, and appeal to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 to allow the free celebration of the traditional Roman rite of Mass, the Mass of Ages, the Mass of Antiquity, on the altars of the Church.

Rt. Hon. Michael Ancram, QC MP.
Miss Madeleine Beard, M.Litt. (Cantab).
Dr. Mary Berry CBE, Founder of the Schola Gregoriana in Cambridge.
James Bogle, TD, MA, ACIarb, Barrister, Chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain.
Count Neri Capponi, Judge of the Tuscan Ecclesiastical Matrimonial Court.
Fr. Antony F.M. Conlon, Chaplain to the Latin Mass Society.
Julian Chadwick, Chairman – The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.
Rev. Fr. Ronald Creighton-Jobe, The Oratory, London.
Fra’ Fredrik Crichton-Stuart, Chairman CIEL UK.
Leo Darroch, Secretary – International Federation Una Voce.
Adrian Davies, Barrister.
R.P. Davis, B.Phil., M.A., D.Phil (Oxon), retired senior lecturer in Ancient History, Queen’s University of Belfast; translator/commentator on the Liber Pontificalis of the Roman Church.
John Eidinow, Bodley Fellow and Dean, Merton College, Oxford.
Jonathan Evans MEP, Vice Chairman Catholic Union of Great Britain.
Fra’ Matthew Festing, OBE, TD, DL. Grand Prior of England of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
The Right Honourable Lord Gill, Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland.
Dr. Sheridan Gilley, Emeritus Reader, University of Durham.
Dr. Christopher Gillibrand, MA (Oxon).
Rev. Dr. Laurence Paul Hemming, Heythrop College, University of London.
Stephen Hough, Concert Pianist and Composer.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director, Aid to the Church in Need UK
Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein, President of the British Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. KCSG.
James MacMillan, CBE, Composer and Conductor.
Anthony McCarthy, Research Fellow, Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics.
Mrs. Daphne McLeod, Chairman – Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.
Anthony Ozimic, MA (bioethics).
Dr. Susan Frank Parsons, President, Society for the Study of Christian Ethics (UK) and Co-Founder of the Society of St. Catherine of Siena.
Dr. Catherine Pickstock, Lecturer in Philosophy and Religion; Fellow – Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
Dr. Thomas Pink, Reader in Philosophy and Director of Philosophical Studies, Kings College, London.
Piers Paul Read, Novelist and Playwright; Vice-President of the Catholic Writers’ Guild of England and Wales.
The Rev’d. Dr. Alcuin Reid, Liturgical Scholar and Author.
Nicholas Richardson, Warden of Greyfriars Hall, Oxford.
Prof. Jonathan Riley-Smith, retired Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Cambridge University.
Fr. John Saward, Lisieux Senior Research Fellow in Theology, Greyfriars, Oxford University.
Dr. Joseph Shaw. Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy, St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford University.
Damien Thompson, Editor-in-Chief, The Catholic Herald.
This post was published on Wednesday, February 7th, 2007 7:06 pm. It has been categorised under Church Great Britain Latin Mass.
Matt S.
8 Feb 2007 11:56 pm

I’m an Anglican and so don’t really have a dog in this fight — except, I suppose, as someone who finds himself in the midst of Western Civilization during its death throes.

That said (and I ask honestly for clarification), if the move to change the Mass went through the proper channels and such, and the Pope signed off on it, why would good Romanists who really believe in authority issue such a plea?

I’ll stick with the Book of Common Prayer, thank you very much. Though I do wonder how long that will last — since 1928, at the least, its been messed around with too much for my liking. Interestingly, most of my Papists friends do confess they are jealous of the Anglican liturgy I experience every Sunday…though not much else.

9 Feb 2007 1:28 am

Eamon Duffy? Where is his name?

Just curious,


Andrew Cusack
9 Feb 2007 8:10 am

That said (and I ask honestly for clarification), if the move to change the Mass went through the proper channels and such, and the Pope signed off on it, why would good Romanists who really believe in authority issue such a plea?

Ah, you misunderstand Catholicism. We do not believe that everything the Pope does is right or that the Pope can do no wrong, we merely believe that the Holy Spirit protects him from proclaiming truth as error when speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals. Liturgy is a matter of form, not one of doctrine, though obviously the form ought to reinforce and reflect and display the teachings of the Church.

Interestingly, most of my Papists friends do confess they are jealous of the Anglican liturgy I experience every Sunday…though not much else.

And rightly so, when it is done properly, but then not rightly so when Catholic liturgy is done properly. I have attended an Anglican-use Catholic Mass at the High Altar of one of the grandest churches in Manhattan, and, glorious though it was, it still just isn’t as good as the Tridentine rite.

Eamon Duffy? Where is his name?

Yes, there are a lot of names I would expect to see there that aren’t. I wonder if they just weren’t contacted, which would be a shame.

Matt S.
9 Feb 2007 9:59 am


You answered what I was after, i.e. did the liturgy fall under faith and morals. I’m not a dunce and know that “whatever the Pope says” is not “infallible.”

Though I might have known the answer to this had I not been at a *Jesuit* University for the last three years. A little orthodoxy might have done me some good?

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