Brief History of Revisions to the Roman Missal

Quo Primum – Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius V – July 14, 1570


Pope Pius V

“Let all everywhere adopt and observe what has been handed down by the Holy Roman Church, the Mother and Teacher of the other churches, and let Masses not be sung or read according to any other formula than that of this Missal published by Us. This ordinance applies henceforth, now, and forever, throughout all the provinces of the Christian world, to all patriarchs, cathedral churches, collegiate and parish churches, be they secular or religious, both of men and of  women – even of military orders …. “


Mirae Caritatis  – Encyclical by Pope Leo XII on the Holy Eucharist  – May 28, 1902

Pope Leo XIII

Pope Leo XIII

“In a word this Sacrament is, as it were, the very soul of the Church; and to it the grace of the priesthood is ordered and directed in all its fullness and in each of its successive grades. From the same source the Church draws and has all her strength, all her glory, her every supernatural endowment and adornment, every good thing that is here; wherefore she makes it the chiefest of all her cares to prepare the hearts of the faithful for an intimate union with Christ through the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, and to draw them thereto. And to this end she strives to promote the veneration of the august mystery by surrounding it with holy ceremonies.
“Most abundant, assuredly, are the salutary benefits which are stored up in this most venerable mystery, regarded as a Sacrifice; a Sacrifice which the Church is accordingly wont to offer daily “for the salvation of the whole world.” And it is fitting, indeed in this age it is specially important, that by means of the united efforts of the devout, the outward honour and the inward reverence paid to this Sacrifice should be alike increased.”

Divini Cultus – Papal Bull of Pope Pius XI – On Divine Worship –  December 20, 1928

Pope Pius XI

Pope Pius XI

“In order to urge the clergy and faithful to a more scrupulous observance of these laws and directions which are to be carefully obeyed by the whole Church, We think it opportune to set down here something of the fruits of Our experience during the last twenty-five years. We celebrate not only the memory of the reform of sacred music to which We have referred, but also the centenary of the monk Guido of Arezzo. Nine hundred years ago Guido, at the bidding of the pope, came to Rome and produced his wonderful invention, whereby the ancient and traditional chants might be more easily published, circulated and preserved intact for posterity — to the great benefit and glory of the Church and of art.”

Officiorum omnium – Apostolic Letter of Pope Pius XI – August 1, 1922

“Now it is not our intention to explain here how Seminaries should be established so that they be suitable for educating priests who are well versed in both piety and doctrine; apart from the fact that, our beloved Son, there are some things to which we especially wish all bishops of the sacred to attend diligently as matters of the greatest moment and gravity.
The first thing concerns fostering with every care and promoting the study of the Latin language in the literary schools of clerics; and gaining a grasp of this language, by knowing and using it, is important not merely for humanity and literature but also for religion.”

Mediator Dei  – Encyclical – On the Nature of the Sacred Liturgy – November 20, 1947

Pope Pius XII

Pope Pius XII

“At the Last Supper He celebrates a new Pasch with solemn rite and ceremonial, and provides for its continuance through the divine institution of the Eucharist. On the morrow, lifted up between heaven and earth, He offers the saving sacrifice of His life, and pours forth, as it were, from His pierced Heart the sacraments destined to impart the treasures of redemption to the souls of men. All this He does with but a single aim: the glory of His Father and man’s ever greater sanctification.”

“In obedience, therefore, to her Founder’s behest, the Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ mainly by means of the sacred liturgy. She does this in the first place at the altar, where constantly the sacrifice of the cross is represented and with a single difference in the manner of its offering, renewed. She does it next by means of the sacraments, those special channels through which men are made partakers in the supernatural life. She does it, finally, by offering to God, all Good and Great, the daily tribute of her prayer of praise. “What a spectacle for heaven and earth,” observes Our predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI, “is not the Church at prayer! For centuries without interruption, from midnight to midnight, the divine psalmody of the inspired canticles is repeated on earth; there is no hour of the day that is not hallowed by its special liturgy; there is no state of human life that has not its part in the thanksgiving, praise, supplication and reparation of this common prayer of the Mystical Body of Christ which is His Church!”

Pius XII Assisi Allocution by Pope Pius XII – Critique of certain tendencies in the Liturgical Movement – September 22, 1956

“We emphasized, then, that owing to a failure to distinguish between the question of the participation of the celebrant in the fruits of the Mass and that of the action which he performs, the following conclusion had been reached: namely, that the offering of one Mass, at which a hundred priests assist with religious devotion, is the same as a hundred Masses celebrated by a hundred priests. Of this assertion, We said: “It must be rejected as an erroneous opinion”

Sanctissimam Eucharisitiam – Sacred Congregation for Rites – Decree forbidding the separation of Altar and Tabernacle – June 1, 1957

“In churches where only one altar exists, this cannot be constructed so that the priest may celebrate towards the people; but on that very altar, in the middle, a tabernacle for reserving the most Holy Eucharist should be located, constructed according to the norm of liturgical laws, entirely worthy in shape and size of so great a Sacrament.”

SacrificiumLaudis – Apostolic Letter by Pope Paul VI – Apostolic letter to the supreme moderators of clerical religious institutes obliged to the choral recitation of the divine officeAugust 15, 1966


Pope Paul VI

“Yet, from letters which some of you have sent, and from many other sources, We learn that discordant practices have been introduced into the sacred liturgy by your communities or provinces (We speak of those only that belong to the Latin Rite.) For while some are very faithful to the Latin language, others wish to use the vernacular within the choral office. Others, in various places, wish to exchange that chant which is called ‘Gregorian’, for newly-minted melodies. Indeed, some even insist that Latin should be wholly suppressed.
“We must acknowledge that We have been somewhat disturbed and saddened by these requests. One may well wonder what the origin is of this new way of thinking and this sudden dislike for the past; one may well wonder why these things have been fostered.”

Source documents on the Vatican Website: Latin; Italian.

Ottaviani intervention– Critique of the draft ‘Missa Normativa’ by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci – September 25, 1969

Alfredo Card. Ottaviani

Alfredo Card. Ottaviani

Antonio Card. Bacci

Antonio Card. Bacci

“Having carefully examined, and presented for the scrutiny of others, the Novus Ordo Missae prepared by the experts of the Consilium ad exequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia, and after lengthy prayer and reflection, we feel it to be our bounden duty in the sight of God and towards Your Holiness, to put before you the following considerations:”

Heenan Indult  – Pope Paul VI – First permission for the continuing public use of the Traditional Mass – November 5, 1971

“His Holiness Pope Paul VI, by letter of 30 October 1971, has given special faculties to the undersigned Secretary of this Sacred Congregation to convey to Your Eminence, as Chairman of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, the following points regarding the Order of the Mass: 1. Considering the pastoral needs referred to by Your Eminence, it is permitted to the local Ordinaries of England and Wales to grant that certain groups of the faithful may on special occasions be allowed to participate in the Mass celebrated according to the Rites and texts of the former Roman Missal.”

Quattuor Abhinc Annos  Indult by Pope St John Paul II – Norms for the use of the Traditional Latin Mass – October 3, 1984

pope-jp-ii“Since, however, the same problem continues, the Supreme Pontiff, in a desire to meet the wishes of these groups grants to diocesan bishops the possibility of using an indult whereby priests and faithful, who shall be expressly indicated in the letter of request to be presented to their own bishop, may be able to celebrate Mass by using the Roman Missal according to the 1962 edition, but under the following conditions: … “


Norms of 1986 – Commission of Cardinals under Pope St John Paul II – Proposals for the reform of Quattuor Abhinc Annos – 1986

In the summer of 1986, a commission of eight curial Cardinals was established ad hoc to consider whether the Indult of 1984 was capable of functioning. It found that in practice the Indult had been shown to be “not very helpful” and it presented some detailed recommendations for a new regulation for the whole Church.

Ecclesia Dei Adflicta   Apostolic Letter by Pope St John Paul II – Norms for the use of the Traditional Latin Mass – July 2, 1988

“Moreover, respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962.”

Letter On Amending the Translation of “Pro Multis”  by Francis Card. Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Oct. 17/ 2006

Summorum Pontificum – Motu Proprio of Pope Benedict XVI – July 7, 2007


Pope Benedict XVI

“As from time immemorial, so too in the future, it is necessary to maintain the principle that “each particular Church must be in accord with the universal Church not only regarding the doctrine of the faith and sacramental signs, but also as to the usages universally received from apostolic and unbroken tradition.  These are to be observed not only so that errors may be avoided, but also that the faith may be handed on in its integrity, since the Church’s rule of prayer (lex orandi) corresponds to her rule of faith (lex credendi).”

‘The Mass is for all’ by Cardinal Hoyos

Summorum Pontificum (Latin & English)

Letter to the Bishops accompanying Summorum Pontificum  – Pope Benedict XVI – July 7, 2007

“As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted.  At the time of the introduction of the new Missal, it did not seem necessary to issue specific norms for the possible use of the earlier Missal.  Probably it was thought that it would be a matter of a few individual cases which would be resolved, case by case, on the local level.  Afterwards, however, it soon became apparent that a good number of people remained strongly attached to this usage of the Roman Rite, which had been familiar to them from childhood.  This was especially the case in countries where the liturgical movement had provided many people with a notable liturgical formation and a deep, personal familiarity with the earlier Form of the liturgical celebration.”

Universae Ecclesiae – Instruction by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei – April 30, 2011

What was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, and cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful.

Universae Ecclesiae with Comments