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RU 23/2007 - FRANCE, Mess at Niafles

- FRANCE: Traditionalist mess ? - or should we even say Far West with suspense, or Don Camillo and Peppone? - The place is Niafles, in the very center of France, 287 inhabitants, a village in the country of the Loire, at 34 km south of the city Laval. In the parochial church - full all Sundays! - is celebrated, since the arrival of Fr. Chehere there 42 years ago, the ancient Holy Mass 'in Latin in the rite St Pius V'. But he died in March 2007, aged 94, letting his parishioners alone and the priest's house empty, since his 2 sisters who lodged there, died also lately aged 100 and even more. The bishop of the place, Mgr Armand Maillard, accepts that Fr. Lodde (of the Priests Society St Peter) replaces him 'during 2 months', to celebrate the dominical Mass, always in the ancient rite. Meanwhile one would discuss a solution, says the bishop. Upon that, the socialist mayor of the village Michel Montecot (nicknamed "Peppone" in the village), seizes the opportunity to rid the village of this bothersome vestige of the Middle Ages and to close the church. The mayor declares to the bishop: "There is too much Latin in the region; this matter starts to bother me". And banging on the table he states: "We are not against the Mass in Latin, but we don't want that each of our dominical Masses is celebrated in that way! It's necessary to come back to the normality of the cult!" Are we dreaming? Don Camillo and Peppone in 2007? He makes known that he even considers to seal the church, under the pretext that no new vicar would have been officially installed since the death of the previous priest. It's necessary to know that the town hall is at a few meters' distance only from the church... and from the priests house, a pretty and vast building of the XVIIIth century, style Louis XV. Peppone dreams to transfer his minuscule town hall there. The bishop gives in. His vicar-general answers to the mayor that there is no question of having a Latin Mass anymore on all Sundays, but only one single Mass "on every 10th or 11th Sunday". In short, the cancer would be eliminated, at the mayor's big relief (one understands!) and also at the bishop's big relief (for quite another reason!). Suddenly, on May 23rd, the bishop declares during a public meeting at Craon, a village very close to Niafles, without any dialogue, that one would transfer "the dominical Mass in Latin" from Niafles to Laval, to the church of the Cordeliers, and that this mass would be celebrated by a priest of the diocese, but according to the rite Paul VI (that is the Mass which has been invented and promulgated in 1969 and retranslated into Latin). The last Mass at Niafles would be celebrated on Sunday May 27th by Fr. Lodde, declared the bishop. At the opening of this 'last mass' one could hear a very special announcement: "This Sunday there won't be a quest because the diocese doesn't need money to close a church". Let's listen to a witness: "After this last Mass, our priest who had consumed the saint reserves and retired the veil of the tabernacle, remained turned towards the altar, and all these small angels carried away the sacred vases and the cannon tables of the altar, they extinguished the candles one by one, withdrew the missal, folded the altar cloth, took the flowers away and everything became dark in the choir. We were at 3 PM, like some 2000 years ago on a certain Friday..." After many palavers, the bishop concedes that the new Mass in Latin in the Cordeliers church is celebrated according to the ancient rite Saint Pius V, but by a priest of the Dominican Fraternity of Chemere (with Rev. Fr. de Bligneres), and at a more conveniant hour (10.30 AM instead of 9.15 AM). However at Niafles, the faithful refuse to agree with these compromises: since the end of May, some ancient parishioners 'occupy' their church, while calling a near priest of the newly founded Pontifical Institute of the Good Shepherd, Fr. Neri, for saying Mass on Sundays, always following the ancient rite St Pius V. These Masses were celebrated in front of the church of Niafles, both on Sunday June 3rd and June 10th. At the same time, posters are pasted up everywhere in the village: "200 families, RESISTANCE!" - "A full church is better than an empty church!" - "A church, otherwise NOTHING!" - "Closing of the church by the bishop!" And also: " Peppone is a donkey"... A placard is hanging from the bell-tower of the church of Niafles: 'OCCUPIED CHURCH'. The traditionalists are always resisting inside the church, while sleeping during night in the sacristy. An association "St Martin of Niafles" was declared on May 31st, to defend their requests legally. An Internet site informs perfectly about everything that happens, with an excellent documentation ( /). That's where hings are right now. Nobody knows how this will continue, neither the mayor, nor the bishop, nor the parishioners. All the problem came up because Rome doesn't dare to declare that the ancient rite St Pius V is always in force, as it's obviously the intimate conviction of Benedict XVI, and that no one in the world can oppose to its celebration, even not the local bishop. Our present Holy Father made known that there is only one Roman Catholic rite, 'under two shapes': the extraordinary one (rite St Pius V) and the modern one (since 1969). All the problem is compressed in this formula. Because by designating the ancient rite extraordinary, this rite is in fact put aside, ready to disappear to-morrow. It was necessary to say the opposite: it is the ancient rite which is the ordinary one, and the modern one is an extraordinary rite. Because the Church didn't live during 20 centuries without an ordinary rite. In this matter, the true mess is in Rome, and not at Niafles! - (ru)



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