Archbishop Arthur Roche is the head of liturgy at the Vatican. (CNS)
Archbishop Arthur Roche is the head of liturgy at the Vatican. (CNS)
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s liturgy chief said this week that Pope Francis issued Traditionis custodes as the effort to reconcile the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) “has not entirely been successful” and it is necessary to “go back” to what the Second Vatican Council required of the church.

In an interview with a television channel serving Italian-speaking Switzerland, aired Nov. 14, Archbishop Arthur Roche said that “the normal form of the celebration of the Roman Rite is found in those documents that have been published since the Second Vatican Council.”

Pope John Paul II’s Ecclesia Dei and Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum “were established in order to encourage the Lefebvrists, above all, to return to unity with the church,” Roche continued, referring to the SSPX by the name of its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

“It’s clear that Traditionis custodes is saying: OK, this experiment has not entirely been successful. And so, let us go back to what the [Second Vatican] Council required of the Church,” the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said.

Issued with immediate effect on July 16, Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis custodes (“Guardians of the tradition”) underlined that it is each bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize the use of the Traditional Latin Mass in his diocese.

In a letter to the world’s bishops explaining his decision, the pope said he felt compelled to act because the use of the 1962 Missal was “often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the tradition and the ‘true church.’”

Traditionis custodes made significant changes to Summorum Pontificum, a 2007 apostolic letter acknowledging the right of all priests to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962.

The Mass said using the 1962 Missal is known variously as the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Tridentine Mass, and the Traditional Latin Mass.

Pope John Paul II wrote the apostolic letter Ecclesia Dei in 1988, after Lefebvre ordained four bishops without the permission of the Holy See. Lefebvre, who based the SSPX in Écône, Switzerland, was excommunicated along with the four bishops.

Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication of the four illegitimately consecrated bishops in 2009, years after Lefebvre’s death, as part of his attempt to bring the Society back into full unity with the Catholic Church. The SSPX continues to have a canonically irregular status.

In his comments to the Swiss television program, Archbishop Roche said that liturgical reform was desired by the majority of bishops attending Vatican II, which took place in Rome in 1962-65.

“And we’ve got to remember that [the liturgical reform] wasn’t the will of the pope. This was the will of the vast majority of the bishops of the Catholic Church, who were gathered together in the 21st ecumenical council, guiding the pope with regard to the future,” the archbishop said.

The 71-year-old English archbishop added: “What was produced in 1570 was entirely appropriate for the time. What is produced in this age is also entirely appropriate for the time.”

The year 1570 was when Pope Pius V issued the apostolic constitution Quo primum, making use of the revised Roman Missal obligatory throughout the Western Church, with certain exceptions. Pius V took the step following the Council of Trent, from which the term “Tridentine” is derived.