the letter expresses concern over reports suggesting that the Vatican might impose new restrictions on this form of liturgy.

the letter expresses concern over reports suggesting that the Vatican might impose new restrictions on this form of liturgy. Photo: Flickr

40 British celebrities, nobles, politicians and artists ask the Pope, in The Times, not to limit traditional Mass any more

Author of Downton Abbey series, Princess of Kent, Andrew Lloyd Webber and 40 other signatures support a letter published in the London newspaper The Times.

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(ZENIT News / London, 07.04.2024).- A group of prominent British figures, including artists, entrepreneurs, journalists, and politicians, has published an open letter calling for the preservation of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, better known as the Traditional Latin Mass. Published on July 3 in The Times of London, the letter expresses concern over reports suggesting that the Vatican might impose new restrictions on this form of liturgy.

A Call to Preserve Spiritual Heritage

The letter, signed by over 40 individuals including «Downton Abbey» creator Julian Fellowes, human rights activist Bianca Jagger, and soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, emphasizes the cultural and spiritual importance of the Traditional Latin Mass. The signatories lament the «worrying reports from Rome that the Latin Mass will be banished from almost all Catholic churches» and urge the Vatican to reconsider any additional restrictions on this form of worship.

Historical Precedent

The current letter echoes a similar appeal made in 1971, also published in The Times, which led to Pope Paul VI allowing the celebration of the traditional Mass on special occasions, known as the “Agatha Christie indult,” named after the famous writer who was one of the signatories at the time. This precedent is used to argue that the Traditional Latin Mass belongs to «universal culture» and has inspired countless artistic works throughout the centuries.

In their letter, the signatories argue that the Traditional Latin Mass is a «cathedral of text and gesture» developed over many centuries. Destroying this rite would be, in their view, «an unnecessary and insensitive act» in a world where history and tradition are at risk of being forgotten. They also highlight that the old rite’s ability to foster silence and contemplation is an irreplaceable treasure.

Support from Various Fields

Among the signatories of the letter are personalities such as composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, historian Tom Holland, and Princess Michael of Kent, a member of the British royal family. The letter also includes support from musicians like Steven Isserlis and Mitsuko Uchida, director Jane Glover, and political figures such as human rights activist David Alton.

In a complementary opinion piece published in The Times, composer James MacMillan described the restrictions imposed in 2021 as «a devastating blow» to young Catholics who have found their spirituality in the traditional liturgy. MacMillan criticized what he sees as «petty and philistine authoritarianism» by some Vatican officials, emphasizing the importance of defending religious freedom.

Ecumenical and Apolitical Support

The letter is presented as «entirely ecumenical and apolitical,» with signatories including both Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and non-believers. This diversity of support reinforces the message that the Traditional Latin Mass is not only a spiritual heritage for Catholics but also a cultural treasure for all humanity.

Below is the full text of the letter:


Latin Mass at risk

Sir, On July 6, 1971, The Times printed an appeal to Pope Paul VI in defence of the Latin Mass signed by Catholic and non-Catholic artists and writers, including Agatha Christie, Graham Greene and Yehudi Menuhin. This became known as the «Agatha Christie letter», because it was reportedly her name that prompted the Pope to issue an indult, or permission, for celebration of the Latin Mass in England and Wales. The letter argued that «the rite in question, in its magnificent Latin text, has also inspired priceless achievements … by poets, philosophers, musicians, architects, painters and sculptors in all countries and epochs. Thus, it belongs to universal culture.»

Recently there have been worrying reports from Rome that the Latin Mass is to be banished from nearly every Catholic church. This is a painful and confusing prospect, especially for the growing number of young Catholics whose faith has been nurtured by it. The traditional liturgy is a «cathedral» of text and gesture, developing as those venerable buildings did over many centuries. Not everyone appreciates its value and that is fine; but to destroy it seems an unnecessary and insensitive act in a world where history can all too easily slip away forgotten. The old rite’s ability to encourage silence and contemplation is a treasure not easily replicated, and, when gone, impossible to reconstruct. This appeal, like its predecessor, is «entirely ecumenical and non-political». The signatories include Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and non-believers. We implore the Holy See to reconsider any further restriction of access to this magnificent spiritual and cultural heritage.

Robert Agostinelli;

Lord Alton de Liverpool;

Lord Bailey de Paddington;

Lord Bamford;

Lord Berkeley de Knighton;

Sophie Bevan;

lan Bostridge;

Nina Campbell;

Meghan Cassidy;

Sir Nicholas Coleridge;

Dame Imogen Cooper;

Lord Fellowes de West Stafford;

Sir Rocco Forte;

Lady Antonia Fraser;

Martin Fuller;

Lady Getty;

John Gilhooly;

Dame Jane Glover;

Michael Gove;

Susan Hampshire;

Lord Hesketh;

Tom Holland;

Sir Stephen Hough;

Tristram Hunt;

Steven Isserlis;

Bianca Jagger;

Igor Levit;

Lord Lloyd-Webber;

Julian Lloyd Webber;

Dame Felicity Lott;

Sir James MacMillan;

Princesa Michael de Kent;

Baronesa Monckton de Dallington Forest;

Lord Moore de Etchingham;

Fraser Nelson;

Alex Polizzi;

Mishka Rushdie Momen;

Sir András Schiff;

Lord Skidelsky;

Lord Smith de Finsbury;

Sir Paul Smith;

Rory Stewart;

Lord Stirrup;

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa;

Dame Mitsuko Uchida;

Ryan Wigglesworth;

AN Wilson;

Adam Zamoyski

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Elizabeth Owens

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