In a letter sent to Roman Catholic bishops around the world on July 16th, Pope Francis announced that he was restoring restrictions placed on the celebration of the Latin Mass (Divine Worship in the Extraordinary Form).
The Latin Mass was how Mass was celebrated prior to the reforms put in place by the Second Vatican Council in 1965. For example, after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, Mass was no longer celebrated in Latin, but with the local language.
In 2007, the now-retired Pope Benedict determined that priests did not need to seek permission from their diocese or the Vatican to perform the Latin Mass as they had since the reforms had been put in place.
Locally, Saint Mary Quasi-Parish was established in 2018 by then-Archbishop Chaput with the sole intent of the celebration of the Latin Mass by The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, who would serve as the clergy of the quasi-parish. In the 2018 announcement, the “interest for additional pastoral care for those wishing to participate in Divine Worship in the Extraordinary Form” was given as the reason for establishing the quasi-parish.
In his letter to bishops, Pope Francis cited the celebration of the Latin Mass as creating divisions within the Church. He wrote, “An opportunity offered by St. John Paul II and, with even greater magnanimity, by Benedict XVI, intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.”
The establishment of the quasi-parish followed a merger of parishes in Conshohocken and West Conshohocken in 2014. Saint Mary Parish, which had been traditionally an ethnically Polish church, was merged with SS. Cosmas & Damian Parish (Italian), Saint Gertrude Parish (Eastern European), and Saint Matthew’s Parish (Irish) at Saint Matthew Parish in 2014.
The merger resulted in three empty churches, however, that was short-lived as SS. Cosmas & Damian became a Coptic church in 2016 and the establishment of the quasi-parish at Saint Mary followed in 2018 (with assistance from the Saint Mary Polish American Society). Saint Gertrude was purchased by the Borough of West Conshohocken, which is still determining how to best use the property.
So how will the new restrictions impact Saint Mary Quasi-Parish? We asked for a statement from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and received back the following:
I am reaching out on behalf of Kenneth A. Gavin. Chief Communications Officer for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, to share that there will be no effect on Saint Mary Catholic Church in Conshohocken.
Archbishop Perez visited Saint Mary Quasi-Parish in late June. After his visit, he stated:
This morning, I made a pastoral visit to St. Mary Parish – Conshohocken. St. Mary is staffed by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), a Society of Apostolic Life approved by Pope John Paul II in 1988 to offer the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite of the Mass and the Sacraments according to the liturgical books of 1962. This is a beautiful and vibrant faith community and I was blessed to be with the clergy and faithful today.
We sought a statement from Saint Mary’s Quasi-Parish this morning as well but did not receive a response. The Facebook page for the quasi-parish shared a news article on the Pope’s letter but asked that no one comment.