In a letter of response to what was reported in “The Vatican Insider” magazine the Friars issued this statement. It will clearly explain what lead up to the action from the Vatican.
On 02 August 2013, the website vaticaninsider.lastampa.it published an article entitled «Lombardi: “Sulla Messa in latino il Papa non contraddice Ratzinger“» (Lombardi: on the Latin Mass the Pope does not contradict Ratzinger), signed “editorial staff”. [translator's note: since this Italian article was not published with an English translation, the translations of it are ours.]
This article, after reporting the statements of Fr. Lombardi, who takes the same line we already had, contains calumnious statements against our Founder, Fr. Stefano M. Manelli, statements that we feel the duty to reject. In the same article there is also untrue or imprecise information to which we wish to draw attention.
1) In regard to the assignment of a Commissioner for our Institute of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, the anonymous journalist writes (our bold):
“The decision of Pope Bergoglio—against which some traditionalist groups rose up, and which the religious instead immediately accepted—was motivated by the fact that the founder and general superior, Fr. Stefano Manelli, had imposed on all the communities of the Franciscans of the Immaculate the exclusive use of the extraordinary form of the liturgy, i.e., the old rite.”
The phrase we have highlighted in bold does not at all correspond to the truth.
It is our duty to respond, with knowledge and in conscience, that in reality, Fr. Stefano not only has never imposed on all the F.I. communities the use—much less the exclusive use—of the Vetus Ordo,but he does not even want it to become the exclusive use, and he has personally given the example, celebrating everywhere according to the one and the other Ordo.
It is well to know that before, during, and after the Apostolic Visit (July 2012–July 2013), as well as at present, the exclusive or prioritized use of the greater part of the F.F.I. Communities is the Novus Ordo(Holy Mass and Breviary).
Fr. Stefano Manelli, as Minister General, together with his General Council, legitimately undertook an effort to promote the Vetus Ordo, respecting the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (2007), respecting the decisions of our General Chapter of 2008, and respecting the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae (2011).
With a letter, Prot. 77/2011, dated 21 Nov 2011, our General Secretary, in the name of our General Council, sent all the F.F.I. Marian Houses (Friaries), some indicative (not preceptive!) norms regarding the use of the Vetus Ordo and the harmony between the Vetus Ordo and the Novus Ordo in our Communities and our Institute.
After this letter, various communities peacefully continued to give pride of place to the Vetus or the Novus Ordo. So there was no imposition on the part of Fr. Manelli.
Some Friars, however, contested the aforesaid letter. Therefore, we consulted the Pontificial Commission“Ecclesia Dei”, which with a R e s c r i p t of 14 Apr 2012, Prot. 39/2011L, found conformitybetween this letter (Prot. 77/2011) and the “mens” of Holy Father Benedict XVI, expressed in the already-mentioned Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, n° 8a.
2) The anonymous journalist of Vatican Insider, in the same article, also writes (our bold):
«It can be adopted as a proper (therefore exclusive) rite by the Religious Institutes and monastic communities that return to communion with Rome after having participated in the Levebvrian schism, and which for this reason are subject to the jurisdiction of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei».
We respond: it is well to point out that in reality, in the spirit of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (n° 3) and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae (n° 8a), the Vetus Ordo as a “proper” rite (exclusive or not, but at least having priority), can be adopted also by Religious Communities not dependent upon the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” and not coming from the Lefebvrian “schism”. Nevertheless, it was never our Founder’s intention to arrive at an exclusive use.
3) The anonymous journalist also writes (our bold):
“The Franciscans of the Immaculate were founded instead after the Council, and furthermore a survey among the friars demonstrated that the majority of them desire to celebrate the ordinary rite”.
We respond: the fact that we were founded after the Council does not prohibit us F.I.’s from adopting or privileging the Vetus Ordo. Furthermore, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (published after the Council) is also addressed to the Institutes of Consecrated Life (without specification as to the date of foundation), and in addition, in no. 8a of the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, it is specified that the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum has the aim, first of all, of “offering to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved”. In that “all the faithful”, Religious are obviously also included.
If, by speaking of a “majority”, the anonymous journalist refers to the datum cited in the article of Alessandro Speciale of 30 Jul 2013, «Francis approves appointment of commissioner to oversee Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate», namely: “in a survey carried out during the apostolic visit, the vast majority of the order’s members had said they did not agree that the Old Latin Rite should be the exclusive form used for celebrations of the mass, ‘particularly in the pastoral care programmes of Italian parishes and in the missions.’” [we have slightly altered Vatican Insider's translation], we consider it necessary to point out that this datum—if true—would not attest anything other than a unity of intention between the vast majority and our Founder on the question of exclusivity.
In any case, if the “majority” of the friars [So far as we are aware, there has not been any survey involving all the members of the Institute. Therefore, survey-based affirmations as to the will of the majority of the friars appear to us to be completely baseless] prefers to celebrate according to the Novus Ordo (Holy Mass and Breviary), it could perfectly well continue to do so, as it has in the past. Furthermore, Fr. Manelli himself principally celebrates the Novus Ordo (Holy Mass and Breviary).
While we remain obedient to the dispositions of the Holy See, it nevertheless remains our duty to make clarifications as necessary to avoid: 1) calumnies against our Founder, and 2) obstacles to the serene progress of the present period under a Commissioner.
We take the occasion to specify that the only official spokesman of our Institute, especially in this very delicate situation, remains our Procurator General, Fr. Alessandro Apollonio.