(Rome) On 18 October 2016 one of the faithful presented ECCLESIA DEI with a Dubium (doubt). The question was whether a priest with a regular permission could celebrate a private Mass in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite according to the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum (Articles 2 and 5.4) in a validly built private chapel without further permission.
On 3 November, the Pontifical Commission gave its affirmative Responsum (answer). The Commission confirmed that such an event was permitted. At the same time, the Commission reaffirmed that the faithful can of course participate in a private Mass. Anyone who wishes to participate and spontaneously participate in the celebration of the Mass has the right to do so within the meaning of Article 4 of Summorum Pontificum. The number of participants is irrelevant. The priest can also exclude believers from attending.
The reply of the Pontifical Commission, Ecclesia Dei, also states that a private Mass in a private chapel does not require any authorization, for example, by the local priest or local bishop.
In the liturgical form of Pope Paul VI., the term Missa sine populo (Mass without people)
is used for private Mass, but it is confusing, as the term "private Mass" was an occasion for misunderstandings. The term private Mass does not mean a "private" Mass (a priest or a group), excluding third parties. It simply means the difference from a "community Mass" in the sense of Church law, ie the mass of a parish or a convent.
Inquiry to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei
Private Masses may not be publicly announced by the priest. As the Church jurist Gero Weishaupt explained on Introibo.net, however, the priest can provide information to the faithful on request. The faithful, on the other hand, can also publicly call for a private Mass and invite people to participate.
Therefore, the phrase "private Mass" does not refer to the number of participants. Thousands of faithful could attend a private Mass. The phrase "Missa sine populo" (which has replaced the term "private Mass" in the Novus Ordo), on the contrary, means that the priest is permitted to say Mass even if no faithful are present.
Prior to the form of Paul VI. in 1969, a priest required a papal indult to celebrate a Holy Mass without without an altar server. Holy Mass is always an expression of ecclesial communion and of the benefit of the entire Church, which is why at least an altar server or the faithful had to be present.
There was no "solitary" mass in Church history. A celebration without a ministrant was "not inadmissible", only in emergencies, in order to be able to offer the last rites to a dying man. It is only since 1970 that the Church has regularly allowed a priest to celebrate alone.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: Messa in Latino
Trans: Tancred firstname.lastname@example.org