Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate say they will "submit in obedience to the Holy Father"

Pope Francis’s order that the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate stop using the Extraordinary Form “do not intend to contradict the general instructions” of Pope Benedict, according to a Vatican spokesman.

The friars, who have a convent in Lanherne just outside Newquay and a parish church in Stoke-on-Trent, have been ordered by the Vatican to stop using the Extraordinary Form from August 11.

The decree, dated July 11 and signed by Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and its secretary, Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, follows a visitation ordered by Benedict after an internal dispute.

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Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi said in a statement that they respond “to specific problems and tensions created in that congregation regarding the rite for the celebration of Mass,” and provisions concern “the life and governance of the congregation as a whole and not just liturgical questions”.

A statement published on the friars’ website said that Fr Stefano Manelli, founder and superior, “together with the whole Institute of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, submits in obedience to the Holy Father and trusts that this obedience will bring forth greater graces.”

An “official note” from the friars last weekend stated that while many of the members and communities chose to give priority to the old Mass, the priests were always free to celebrate Mass using both forms and that Fr Manelli often celebrated Mass using the new rite. It acknowledged, however, there were internal differences over how the choice of liturgy was being made.

With more than 130 priests, the Franciscans are the second largest canonically-regular religious congregation or society among those that primarily or exclusively offer the Traditional Latin Mass, after the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP).

Despite Vatican reassurances, there are concerns that the decree contradicts Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, under which the celebration of the traditional rite requires no authorisation from the bishop.

The July 11 decree states that: “The Holy Father Francis has directed that every religious of the congregation of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate is required to celebrate the liturgy according to the ordinary rite and that, if the occasion should arise, the use of the extraordinary form (Vetus Ordo) must be explicitly authorised by the competent authorities, for every religious and/or community that makes the request.”

It is believed that it followed complaints from a small group within the Friars who were unhappy at the direction it was taking. The friars were not founded as an Extraordinary Form community, but after Summorum Pontificum a group within the FFI were making the Extraordinary Form the more common one, and it is attracting new members devoted to it.

There followed the Apostolic Visitation, ordered by Pope Benedict, and Pope Francis appointed Capuchin Father Fidenzio Volpi to serve as apostolic commissioner of the order, before the issuing of the decree, approved by Pope Francis before its publication.

For an extended version of this story see this week’s edition of The Catholic Herald, out on Friday

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