An Our Father as the Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X move into their new church in Vienna.

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Paternoster for the Church of the Minor Friars in Vienna

An Our Father as the Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X move into their new church in Vienna.

The arch-conservative Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (FSSPX) has established itself symbolically in one of Vienna’s central church buildings.  An approach in an Our Father

Pater noster.  The very first words of the Lord’s Prayer make it clear: in Vienna’s Church of the Minor Friars, vernacular is no longer spoken – at least in prayer and during the celebration of Mass; but Latin, just as it was customary for centuries and as older Catholics still remember it – from the time before the Second Vatican Council. From October 1962 to December 1965, Pope John XXIII commissioned the Second Vatican Council in Rome to renew the Church and adapt the Rites to modern pastoral understanding.  One of the oldest churches in Vienna has been firmly in the hands of the conservative Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X for several weeks.

Qui es in caelis – who art in heaven.  The Second Vatican Council brought not only the celebration of the liturgy in the vernacular, but also the establishment of a peoples’ altar: the priest celebrates Holy Mass facing the faithful.  “The table can be pushed away,” explained Father Jürgen Wegner of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X.  These traditionalists have joined together under the ultra-conservative French Archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre (1905-1991) in 1970.  He built up a kind of parallel structure to the Catholic Church and was excommunicated by Pope John Paul II in 1988 – because of illegal episcopal ordinations according to Roman canon law.  Since then, relations with the Catholic Church and especially with the Holy Father have been strained.  Although Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication, the efforts at rapprochement are presently dormant.

Harmful modernity

Sanctificetur nomen tuum – hallowed be thy name.  Yet the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X are convinced that they uphold true Catholic doctrine – and they do, after all, have a pope as their heavenly patron, Saint Pius X (in office from 1903 to 1914) strove to protect the Church from the harmful influences of modernisation – at the same time, he re-wrote canon law, banned the employment of castrati in church choirs and lowered the age for First Communion to seven.

Adveniat regnum tuum – Thy kingdom come.  As far as the interpretation of the true doctrine, the correct Rite and the lived practice of the faith is concerned, it is of course about power.  Also about earthly power and its representation.  For a long time, the Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X has strived to be able to present itself not only in the seclusion of its district seat in Jaidhof Castle near Gföhl, but also in the federal capital: the Church of the Minor Friars is located in the centre of worldly power – between the Federal Chancellery, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education.  This is where Holy Mass is celebrated with the priest back to the people – the sermon is in German, after all.  And from high up on the pulpit created in 1784.

“Maria Schnee”

Fiat voluntas tua – Thy will be done.  Since the first half of the 13th century, the Minoriten Platz has been the home of the Franciscan Order, the ordo fratrum minorum conventualium and the church has been rebuilt several times – in 1784, Emperor Joseph II gave it to the Italian population group, which numbered around 7,000 at the time, as their national church.  This is why it bears the name “Maria Schnee” (Mary’s Snow): on 5 August 358, snow is said to have fallen on the Esquiline in Rome and remained lying there – the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore was then built on this spot, whose altarpiece in turn adorns the altarpiece of the Church of the Minor Friars today as a “picture in a picture”. 

Our Lady Salvation of the Roman People, the picture here born by angels and today located in the Basilica

The private association “Italian Congregation of Maria Schnee” donated the church in 2021 to the Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X, which has gradually moved in over the last few weeks.  The Archdiocese of Vienna was not involved in this process.

Sicut in caelo et in terra – as in heaven, so on earth.  Many Italian believers have remained faithful to their church even under the Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X. – at Sunday Mass, this can be seen, among other things, in the fact that many women (as is customary in Italy) cover their hair with a hat or veil.  It is also noticeable that the church is well filled on Sundays.  Better than others – the dignified way of celebrating Holy Mass according to the Old Rite is attractive.

Kneeling to communicate

Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie – give us this day our daily bread.  This includes not only that the sacred acts – such as the consecration – are performed by the celebrant with his back to the people. It also includes the communion rail being put back into function and the body of Christ being placed on the tongue of the faithful kneeling there.

Et dimitte nobis debita nostra – and forgive us our trespasses.  However, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X have come under criticism not so much because of their traditionalist way of celebrating mass or their lack of obedience to the Roman Church, but because some of their exponents have repeatedly made anti-Semitic statements – badly remembered is Bishop Richard Williamson, who was expelled from the Fraternity for Holocaust denial and excommunicated by the Pope.

Sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris – as we forgive others.  In Vienna, the Pius brothers want above all “to talk to people about the faith, they should experience Catholic priests, not just Catholic stones”, says Father Wegner.

Whoever goes through this door can “experience Catholic priests, not just Catholic stones”.

Et ne nos inducas in tentationem – and lead us not into temptation.  Wegner invokes Lefebvre in urging, “Give the experiment a chance!”

Sed libera nos a malo – but deliver us from evil.


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