At any time between the 1960s and about a decade ago, it would have seemed an unlikely occasion: an English bishop conferring the sacrament of Holy Orders on two deacons, according to the Extraordinary Form. Nevertheless, on Saturday June 17, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool will be doing just that, at St Mary’s Church in Warrington.

The priests-to-be, Alex Stewart and Krzysztof Sanetra, are members of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), which has a special attachment to the traditional liturgy.

Archbishop McMahon has designated St Mary’s as a centre for the Extraordinary Form (EF). The parish priest, Fr Armand de Malleray, believes these are the first EF ordinations in Britain in decades.

Rather neatly, the ordinations come just a few weeks before a significant anniversary. On July 7, 2007, Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum, a motu proprio (papal edict) which gave priests and communities much more latitude to celebrate Mass according to the 1962 Missal. They could do so privately without needing permission from a bishop; if the laity requested the EF, “the parish priest should willingly accede.”

Summorum Pontificum has had a big cultural impact as well, according to Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society. The EF “has a place in the life of the Church today which would have been unthinkable before 2007”, he says. More and more priests and bishops are celebrating the older rite. Institutes such as the FSSP are growing: “Formerly, the 1962 Missal was regarded as legally and theologically dubious even by many on the ‘conservative’ side of the debate in the Church: that attitude has now simply gone.”

Recent developments vindicate Shaw’s point. In February, Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth established a permanent base for the traditional Latin Mass at St Edward the Confessor, Peverell, which has a weekly EF Mass. Catholics in the Diocese of Leeds have the same opportunity, at St Joseph’s, Bradford.

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