The Mass at Lille - 1976

The following excerpt from Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre gives background and detail to the importance of this Mass, which occurred in the summer of 1976, at Lille, France.

The Mass at Lille was an event of considerable importance. Firstly, it constituted in the most dramatic manner possible the response of the Archbishop to his suspenion, the terms of which forbade him to celebrate Mass. Secondly, it enabled him to put his case to an audience of millions around the world. Thirdly, it was clearly as a result of the impact made by this Mass that the Pope felt obliged to receive the Archbishop despite repeated Vatican claims that this would never be done until he made an act of submission to the "Conciliar Church." Fourthly, the reporting of this Mass and its background provides one of the clearest instances of the extent to which the Catholic and secular press is prepared to go to misrepresent the Archbishop. Fortunately, I was present at the Mass with some friends and can thus provide a first-hand account of what took place. I also have the complete text of the Archbishop's controversial sermon and have had access to a professionally made recording which includes every word.

Among the allegations made concerning the Mass at Lille is that it was intended by the Archbishop as an act of public defiance, a huge public demonstration against the authority of the Holy See. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lille is, of course, in the Archbishop's own native region of France. He had been asked by some of his friends and relations to offer Mass there on 29 August and had agreed. It was to be a semi-private occasion for two or three hundred people at the most. But the media got to learn of the proposed Mass and began building it up into an act of contestation, a trial of strength between the Archbishop and the Pope. Then, as a result of this publicity, traditionalists from further afield got to know about the Mass and began to make inquiries about its venue as they wished to attend. This posed the organizers and the Archbishop himself with a problem as they had not made arrangements to cope with a congregation of more than a few hundred. The Archbishop 's decision was unequivocal-the arrangements that had been made were to stand and those from further afield were to be discouraged from coming. That this was indeed the case is also something to which I can add my personal testimony. After learning of the proposed Mass I had thought it might be appropriate to arrange for a few hundred British Catholics to go to Lille as a gesture of solidarity with Mgr. Lefebvre in the face of the Vatican sanctions. But I did not want to do this without being certain that there would be a public Mass with sufficient space for everyone wishing to attend. I arranged for a phone call directly to the Archbishop at Ecône and his personal reply was quite definite: the Mass was to be private, he did not want anyone from outside Lille to come, and anyone planning to do so should be discouraged. This was only one week before the Mass was scheduled to take place.

During the week before the Mass it became clear to the organizers that several thousand of the faithful were going to arrive whether the Archbishop wanted them to or not and so, at the last minute, they decided to hire the vast auditorium of the International Fair in Lille. This, they reckoned, would be more than sufficient to cope with any number that might arrive. This was reported in the British secular press on Saturday, 28 August, and so I made a last-minute decision to attend and, just before midnight, I left London's Victoria Station on the boat train with just one friend.

We met a few more traditionalists on the boat and arrived at Lille early on Sunday morning. On our way to the Inter- national Fair we were most impressed by the zeal and organization of the Lille Catholics. Stewards with arm-bands were strategically posted along the route to indicate the way and coaches had been laid on for those who felt unable to walk. There were very few police in evidence -a dozen or so traffic police at the most. When we reached the perimeter of the large grounds in which the Fair is situated a steady stream of cars had already begun to arrive. However, when I entered the huge auditorium I feared that an error of judgment had been made. A local paper which I had bought at the station gave the seating capacity as 10,000 and there was clearly room for several thousand people to stand. Under the circircumstances a congregation of 4,000 would have been a remarkable gesture of support for the Archbishop-but such a number would have appeared lost in this vast hall. I could already envisage the line the press-the Catholic press in particular-would take. The headlines would read: HALL ONLY HALF FULL FOR LEFEBVRE MASS. However, as the time for the Mass drew nearer the line of cars and procession of pedestrians grew more and more dense and, having waited outside for a friend coming by car, I found that at about 10:45 all the seats had been taken, the standing space was packed and it appeared that I would not be able to get into the auditorium. I managed to insert myself into a jam-packed mass of people which was literally inching its way along a corridor towards the auditorium. A number of young stewards did their best to persuade those inside to cram themselves up even more closely to allow a few more in. At least one report claimed that the stewards were Gestapo types wearing jackboots! I can testify that all those I saw were extremely inoffensive looking young men wearing leisure suits and that I did not notice a single jackboot anywhere in the congregation! A Soviet paper reported the presence of thousands of Italian fascists although, newspaper reporters apart, there did not appear to be a single Italian present.

The Archbishop's enemies have also spared no effort to publicize the fact that the journals of extreme right-wing political groups were being sold outside the auditorium; including Aspects de la France-the journal of Action franscaise. What the papers did not point out is that on at least three occasions before the Mass an announcement was made that the Archbishop did not want any literature sold outside the auditorium and that if this was done it would be in opposition to his wishes. 'When this matter was raised during a press conference given by the Archbishop on 15 September 1976 (the full text of which was published in ltineraires of December 1976) he made the following points: he was displeased at the fact that Aspects de la France had been sold outside the auditorium at Lille; he did not read this journal; he did not know those who produced it; he had never met Charles Maurras, its founder; he had not even read his works; and he was thus ignorant of his political philosophy.

It needs to be appreciated that political attitudes in France cannot be assessed on the basis of attitudes in English-speaking countries. In France political feeling tends to be more polarized, more extreme, and far more deeply felt than in England. It can only be understood in the light of the French Revolution and subsequent history -particularly the inter-war period and the German occupation. At the risk of a serious over-simplification, it is reasonable to state that up to the Second World War Catholicism in France tended to be identified with right-wing politics and anti-Catholicism with the left. Since the war, and especially since Vatican II, the official French Church has veered sharply to the left and has adopted all the postures identified with the Liberal consensus which is accepted throughout the West, e. g. on the virtues of the Viet Cong and the evils of capitalism. Thus, a large proportion of right-wing Catholics was predisposed to support any religious movement opposed to the policies of the French hierarchy. The political views of some of the French Catholics who support the Archbishop would certainly be odious to many English-speaking traditionalists - although such views are more understandable (if not acceptable) within the French context. However, if they wish to support the Archbishop (and not necessarily for the right reasons) there is nothing he can do about it. His own alleged right-wing political philosophy is nothing more than straight-forward Catholic social teaching as expounded by the Popes for a century or more. Those familiar with this teaching need only read his book A Bishop Speaks to see at once that his so-called "political" utterances are no more than paraphrases of teaching contained in papal encyclicals. The French hierarchy has replaced this social teaching with diluted Marxism to such an extent that anyone adopting the Catholic position is now automatically accused of fascism. Whenever the Archbishop is accused of intermingling the traditional faith and right-wing politics a demand should be made that chapter and verse be provided to substantiate the allegation. The almost invariable Liberal response will be to ignore such a demand but, if a reply is given, it will be found that what is being objected to is the consistent teaching of the Popes.

What should be quite obvious is that Mgr. Lefebvre cannot prevent anyone who wishes to support him from doing so.

It is quite certain that there is no formal link whatsoever between Mgr. Lefebvre and any political party in any country. He has a right to his own political views, so have his priests, so have those who support him. But support for the Archbishop does not involve adherence to any political standpoint, only to the traditional faith, the traditional liturgy, and the social teaching of the Popes.

The congregation at Lille certainly represented a balanced cross-section of French society. In its 31 August issue, Le Monde, which has never attempted to disguise its hostility towards the Archbishop, commented on the make-up of the congregation in terms which coincided exactly with my own impression. Contrary to reports that the atmosphere of the Mass was political rather than religious, the report affirmed that for the vast majority of those present it was "an act of piety, a gesture of solidarity with a bishop who was the object of sanctions, a gesture of fidelity to the traditional Church… Men were in a definite majority, there were large numbers of young people, and entire families with their children ...the general impression was of a normal parish congregation with a far from negligible proportion of workers."

The same report adds that everyone from Lille seemed to know what was going on. The duty clerk in the ticket office at the station told Le Monde 's reporter: "I'm broken-hearted at not being free to go to the Mass. I'm 100 per cent behind Mgr. Lefebvre. I haven't put a foot inside my parish church for ages because of the clowning that goes on there; they don't get so much as a sou (cent) out of me any more." On the way to the Mass his taxi driver also declared himself to be a strong supporter of Mgr. Lefebvre.

The extent of the Archbishop's support in France was made clear in an opinion poll published earlier in the month by the newspaper Progres de Lyon and reported in The Times on 14 August. It revealed that while 28 per cent of Catholics approved of the Archbishop's stand only 24 per cent opposed it, the rest being indifferent or unwilling to express an opinion. In typical fashion, the London Universe (England's largest-circulation Catholic weekly) withheld the figures from its readers and informed them that the poll had revealed that the great majority of French Catholics "are more concerned about matters other than Mgr. Lefebvre." Similarly, among the glaring inaccuracies in its report on the Mass at Lille it claimed that there were 200 riot police on duty at the Mass -there was not a riot policeman in sight- and that the sermon carried hints of anti-semitism when, in fact, there was not a single phrase in the whole sermon referring to the Jews, even indirectly.

The Mass at Lille was celebrated with immense fervor and great dignity. A report in Le Monde remarked on Mgr. Lefebvre's serenity and tranquil dignity despite the strain he must have been undergoing since his suspension. The volume and quality of the congregational participation in the sung parts of the Mass -with more than twelve thousand Catholics from at least six countries singing una voce, with one voice, and broadcast to millions on TV and radio, provided the most effective possible rebuttal to the nonsensical claim that the traditional Mass provides an obstacle to congregational participation.

The complete text of the sermon will not be given here. Most of it is simply a restatement of points made in other sermons contained in this book and it is extremely long - about 8,500 words. Under the circumstances, particularly the overcrowding in the hall, a much shorter sermon might have been far more effective. But the Archbishop, clearly affected by the emotional nature of the occasion and the frequent applause from the congregation, probably went on for a much longer time than he had intended. He makes no secret of the fact that his sermons are not written before-hand. He begins with a few ideas of what he would like to say and carries on from there, with the result that he sometimes makes remarks which had not been planned and which, perhaps, he might rather not have made. However, lest it be alleged that this sermon has been omitted to cover up some of the controversial passages in it, these passages will be quoted in full, together with some other important passages.

The Archbishop began his sermon as follows:

My Dear Brethren,

Before addressing a few words of exhortation to you, I should like first to dispel some misunderstandings. And to begin with, about this very gathering.

You can see from the simplicity of this ceremony that we made no preparations for a ceremony which would have gathered a crowd like the one in this hall. I thought I should be saying Holy Mass on the 29 August as it had been arranged, before a few hundreds of the faithful of the Lille region, as I have done often in France, Europe, and even America, with no fuss.

Yet all of a sudden this date, 29 August, through press, radio and television, has become a kind of demonstration, resembling, so they say, a challenge. Not at an: this demonstration is not a challenge. This demonstration is what you wanted, dear Catholic brethren, who have come from long distances. Why? To manifest your Catholic faith; to manifest your belief; to manifest your desire to pray and to sanctify yourselves as did your fathers in faith, as did generations and generations before you. That is the real object of this ceremony, during which we desire to pray, pray with all our heart, adore Our Lord Jesus Christ Who in a few moments will come down on this altar and will renew the sacrifice of the Cross which we so much need.

I should like also to dispel another misunderstanding. Here I beg your pardon, but I have to say it: it was not I who called myself head of the traditionalists. You know who did that not long ago in solemn and memorable circumstances in Rome. Mgr. Lefebvre was said to be the head of the traditionalists. I do not want to be head of the traditionalists, nor am I. Why? Because I also am a simple Catholic. A priest and a bishop, certainly; but in the very conditions in which you find yourselves, reacting in the same way to the destruction of the Church, to the destruction of our faith, to the ruins piling up before our eyes.

Having the same reaction, I thought it my duty to form priests, the true priests that the Church needs. I formed those priests in a "Saint Pius X Society," which was recognized by the Church. All I was doing was what all bishops have done for centuries and centuries. That is all I did -something I have been doing for thirty years of my priestly life. It was on that account that I was made a bishop, an Apostolic Delegate in Africa, a member of the central pre-conciliar commission, an assistant at the papal throne. What better proof could I have wanted that Rome considered my work profitable for the Church and for the good of souls? And now when I am doing the same thing, a work exactly like what I have been doing for thirty years, all of a sudden I am suspended a divinis, and perhaps I shall soon be excommunicated, separated from the Church, a renegade, or what have you! How can that be? Is what I have been doing for thirty years liable also to suspension a divinis?

I think, on the contrary, that if then I had been forming seminarians as they are being formed now in the new seminaries I should have been excommunicated. If then I had taught the catechism which is being taught in the schools I should have been called a heretic. And if I had said Mass as it is now said I should have been called suspect of heresy and out of the Church. It is beyond my understanding. It means something has changed in the Church; and it is about that that I wish to speak.

The next passage to be cited evoked a great deal of unfavorable comment, principally because of the use of the word "bastard," particularly with reference to priests emerging from the reformed seminaries. Liberals were quick to seize upon this passage to imply that the Archbishop had intended to be personally offensive to these young priests. Nothing could be further from the truth. A careful reading of the controversial passage will show that the Archbishop was making a valid analogy and using the word with great precision. Unfortunately the word "bastard " sounds far more offensive in English than in French and for this reason I could wish that the Archbishop had found some other term for making his point.

As the text will make clear, he first takes up an image met with frequently in the Old Testament, and often phrased in terms far more blunt than those of the Archbishop, that the infidelities of the Jewish people constituted adultery. Israel was the spouse of Yahweh; when the Jews strayed to the "high places" to participate in pagan cults this constituted an adulterous liaison. The great temptation facing Catholics since the French Revolution has been to enter into an adulterous liaison with Liberalism, the pervading spirit of our times. Since Vatican II, large sections of the Church have succumbed to this temptation, none more evidently than the French hierarchy. Similarly, an attempt has been made to unite (in a clearly adulterous manner) Catholic and Protestant worship and doctrine. Thus many of the young priests emerging from our seminaries today (and I have personal experience of this) are a confused mixture of Liberalism and Protestantism, with possibly some vestigial Catholicism. Such is their confusion that they could not name their spiritual ancestry if asked, and to term them doctrinal bastards is blunt but accurate. Anyone who has attended a typical celebration of the New Mass will hardly need to be told that to call it a bastard rite is, if anything, an understatement. The controversial passage reads as follows:

The union desired by these Liberal Catholics, a union between the Church and the Revolution and subversion is, for the Church, an adulterous union, adulterous. And that adulterous union can produce only bastards. And who are those bastards? They are our rites: the rite of Mass is a bastard rite, the sacraments are bastard sacraments-we no longer know if they are sacraments which give grace or which do not give grace. We no longer know if this Mass gives the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ or if it does not give them. The priests coming out of the seminaries do not themselves know what they are. In Rome it was the Archbishop of Cincinnati who said: "Why are there no more vocations? Because the Church no longer knows what a priest is." How then can She still form priests if She does not know what a priest is? The priests coming out of the seminaries are bastard priests. They do not know what they are. They do not know that they were made to go up to the altar to offer the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to give Jesus Christ to souls, and to call souls to Jesus Christ. That is what a priest is. Our young men here know that very well. Their whole life is going to be consecrated to that, to love, adore, and serve Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

The adulterous union of the Church with the Revolution is consolidated with dialogue. When the Church entered into dialogue it was to convert. Our Lord said: "Go, teach all nations, convert them." But He did not say to hold dialogue with them so as not to convert them, so as to try to put us on the same footing with them.

Error and truth are not compatible. We must see if we have charity towards others, as the Gospel says: he who has charity is one who serves others. But those who have charity should give Our Lord, they should give the riches they possess to others and not just converse with them and enter into dialogue on an equal footing. Truth and error are not on the same footing. That would be putting God and the Devil on the same footing, for the Devil is the father of lies, the father of error.

We must therefore be missionaries.

We must preach the Gospel, convert souls to Jesus Christ and not engage in dialogue with them in an effort to adopt their principles. That is what this bastard Mass and these bastard rites are doing to us, for we wanted dialogue with the Protestants and the Protestants said to us: "We will not have your Mass; we will not have it because it contains things incompatible with our Protestant faith. So change the Mass and we shall be able to pray with you. We can have intercommunion. We can receive your sacraments. You can come to our churches and we can come to yours; then it will be all finished and we shall have unity." We shall have unity in confusion, in bastardy. That we do not want. The Church has never wanted it. We love the Protestants; we want to convert them. But it is not loving them to let them think they have the same religion as the Catholic religion.

The next passage to be quoted was the most controversial in the whole sermon. It contains a reference to Argentina, about 150 words long out of a sermon of about 8,500 words, and it is the passage which was seized upon by Liberals, secular and Catholic, to categorize the entire speech as political and even to go as far as to compare Mgr. Lefebvre with Hitler! This is what the Archbishop said:

There will be no peace on this earth except in the reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The nations are at war -every day we have page after page of the newspapers about it, we have it on radio and television. Now because of a change of Prime Minister they are asking what can be done to improve the economic situation, what will strengthen the currency, what will bring prosperity to industry, and so on. All the papers in the world are full of it. But even from an economic point of view Our Lord Jesus Christ must reign, because the reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the reign of the principles of love, indeed of the commandments of God which give society its balance, which make justice and peace reign in society .It is only when society has order, justice, and peace that the economy can prevail and revive. That is easily seen. Take the Argentine Republic as an example. What state was it in just two or three months ago? Complete anarchy, brigands killing right and left, industries totally ruined, factory owners seized and held to ransom, and so on. An incredible revolution, and that in a country so beautiful, so balanced, and so congenial as the Argentine Republic, a Republic which could be extraordinarily prosperous and enormously wealthy. Now there is a government of principle, with authority, which brings back order into life and stops the brigands murdering; and lo and behold! the economy is reviving, workers have employment, and they can return to their homes knowing that no one is going to knock them on the head because they will not strike when they do not wish to strike. That is the reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we want; and we profess our faith, saying that Our Lord Jesus Christ is God.

Before making any comment on this passage I will quote an explanation which the Archbishop gave himself when questioned upon it during a press conference on 15 September 1976. Let it be noted once again that the passage in question is one of about 150 words in a sermon of about 8,500 words. The following question was posed to the Archbishop:

"You have recently been reproached with your sympathy for regimes like that in Argentina. Is this true or false?"

The Archbishop's answer reads as follows:

I have just been talking to you about principles, I might say political principles, which one may have, the political principles of the Church. She has principles, political principles, principles for society, for She considers that society is created by God, like the family. The family has its laws: there are father, mother, and child; and each has a law and a position in the family. Similarly in civil society. The Church considers that it is a creature of God, and that this creature of God also has its laws so that it can develop normally and give all its members the fullest possibility for their own development. Of course we want governments to observe these laws. I took that example, but I might have taken another, for, as you know, I do not write my speeches -a pity, perhaps -but I do not think about them well in advance. So, trying to give an example of Christian order, of the notion people have of Christian order which brings things back to peace and justice, with the hierarchy which is necessary in a society, I quoted this example because it is recent and known to everybody, and also because the situation was really frightful, the Argentine being in a state of anarchy, with assassinations and abductions-a situation on the brink of the abyss, on the verge of  total anarchy. A government then took over, but I think that, given the ideas of some of these men (I know some of the Argentinian bishops and I was there myself not long ago), I think that these men who took over the government did so in a Christian spirit. That they are not governing perfectly, that they exaggerate, that not everything is perfect, I do not doubt for a moment (I do not think that any government in the world has ever been perfect) ; but they did, I think, return to principles of justice, and that is why I gave that example. I said: you see that when Christian principles are restored a society is rediscovered which can live, which is livable, in which people can live, where they need not always be asking themselves if they are going to be assassinated at the street corner, or be robbed, or have a bomb in their garden, and so on. All I wanted to do was give an example: but that does not mean I am a supporter of the government of the Argentine or of the government of Chile. I might have used Chile as an example. I could perhaps have quoted governments which were in total anarchy and which then re-established order. Such an order might be tyrannical, and then it is a different matter: we are not talking of introducing slavery .I must say that I did not use that example so as to support the government in the Argentine or to play politics. I do not play politics.

I would not wish to make any detailed comments on the regimes in Argentina and Chile as I have made no detailed personal study of them. What is perfectly clear is that in both cases the military only took over the government because life had been made literally impossible by the previous regimes. Let British or American readers spend a few moments calculating the precise meaning of an 800 per cent inflation rate, let them calculate the cost of the basic necessities of life multiplied eightfold and decide just how tolerable they would have found regimes which had brought about such a state of affairs. It must also be remembered that in both countries Marxist terrorists consider themselves bound by no ethical norms in achieving their aims. During my own military service I had personal experience of two terrorist campaigns, in Malaya and Cyprus, and, leaving aside the question as to whether right is on the side of the military or the terrorists, it is hard for the security forces to conform to the rule book when dealing with men who violate civilized standards of behavior. To take Northern Ireland as an example, there can be no doubt that the situation there has been caused by an unjust partition of Ireland and unjust treatment of the Catholic population. The Catholics have a legitimate grievance which they have been unable to rectify through the accepted political channels. Nonetheless, when a soldier or policeman has seen his comrades blown to pieces by a terrorist bomb, or seen the carnage in a bomb-blasted shop, with woman and children lying dead or bleeding from lost limbs, is not likely to think much about the historical background when he gets his hands on a gunman. He should - but doesn't. It is wrong but understandable. It is thus quite unjust for Liberals, Catholic or otherwise, to sit in judgment on the regimes in Chile and Argentine when they have no first- and probably even little second- or even third-hand knowledge of the background to the current situation in these countries. It is also a fact that the governments of Chile and Argentina have been subjected to a campaign of systematic defamation in the secular and Catholic press. To take just one example, those who rely for their information on the British Catholic press would imagine that the prisons of Chile are bursting with political prisoners when, in fact, there is not a single political prisoner in the entire country.

As regards Argentina, the far from right-wing French journal L 'Express admitted in its issue of 30 August, the day after the sermon at Lille, that:

General Videla, brought to power by a coup d'etat, has managed at the last moment to save the economic situation of the country .With an 800 per cent inflation during the last twelve months of Isabel Peron's presidency, with no means of paying off its debts abroad, the Argentine was on the verge of bankruptcy. By freezing prices and freezing salaries, inflation has been brought down by at least 3 per cent a month.... The Argentine can resume its development on a solid foundation."

As for the "coup d'etat" of the Argentinian armed forces, on their side there was neither ambition nor despotism. They would have preferred (like the Brazilian armed forces in 1964) not to have to intervene. But there was nobody else. The Courrier de Paul Deheme makes that clear in its No. 7,967 of 16 September 1976:

The Argentinian armed forces refused for a long time to act, and on 24 March 1976, when they made their decision, the chaos had reached such a pitch that they could no longer delay. I remind you, moreover, of what I wrote to you on 17 March, a week before their seizure of power: "The armed forces are going to have to make draconian decisions whether they like it or not.'

The major part of the Archbishop's sermon was concerned with an impassioned defense of the traditional faith and a scathing indictment of the "Conciliar Church "-a Church in which consecrated churches are put at the disposal of Muslims but withheld from faithful Catholics wishing to offer the traditional Mass. The Archbishop laid stress on the need for traditionalists to put their case in a restrained and unaggresive manner:

We are against no one. We are not commandos. We wish nobody harm.

All we want is to be allowed to profess our faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, for that reason, we are driven from our churches. The poor priests are driven out for saying the Old Mass by which all our saints were sanctified: Saint Jeanne d'Arc, the holy Cure of Ars, the little Therese of the Child Jesus were sanctified by this Mass; and now priests are driven brutally, cruelly, from their parishes because they say the Mass which has sanctified saints for centuries. It is crazy. I would almost say it is a story of madmen. I ask myself if I am dreaming. How can this Mass have become some kind of horror for our bishops and for those who should preserve our faith? But we will keep the Mass of Saint Pius V because the Mass of Saint Pius V is the Mass of twenty centuries. It is the Mass of all time, not just the Mass of Saint Pius V; and it represents our faith, it is a bulwark of our faith, and we need that bulwark.

We shall be told that we are making it a question of Latin and soutanes. Obviously it is easy that way to discredit those you disagree with. But Latin has its importance; and when I was in Africa it was marvellous to see those crowds of Africans of different languages -we sometimes had five or six different tribes who did not understand one another - who could assist at Mass in our churches and sing the Latin chants with extraordinary fervor. Go and see them now : they quarrel in the churches because Mass is being said in a language other than theirs, so they are displeased and they want a Mass in their own language. The confusion is total, where before there was perfect unity. That is just one example, You have just heard the epistle and gospel read in French -I see no difficulty in that; and if more prayers in French were added, to be said all together, I still see no difficulty. But it still seems to me that the body of the Mass, which runs from the offertory to the priest's Communion, should remain in a unique language so that all men of all nations can assist together at Mass and can feel unity in that unity of faith, in that unity of prayer. So we ask, indeed we address an appeal to the bishops and to Rome: will they, please, take into consideration our desire to pray as our ancestors did, to keep the Catholic faith, our desire to adore Our Lord Jesus Christ and to want His reign. That is what I said in my last letter to the Holy Father-and I thought it really was the last, because I did not think the Holy Father would have written to me again.

The Archbishop also laid stress on the fact that while Communists and Freemasons were welcome in the Vatican, Catholic traditionalists were not. An audience of millions throughout the world was able to see at first hand the mask being torn from the face of the "Conciliar Church "- a Church characterized by harshness, hypocrisy, intolerance, and calculated cruelty to its most faithful children: a Church prepared to sacrifice its doctrinal and liturgical patrimony in the interests of an illusory ecumenical goal. There can be little doubt that it was the embarrassment resulting from this public exposure that resulted in the subsequent papal audience for the Archbishop.

It is also obvious that this massive demonstration of support for the Archbishop came as a great shock to the Vatican. Technically, after his suspension, not a single Catholic should have been present at the Mass, and the local bishops had reminded the faithful of this and warned that they should not be present even out of curiosity. It is also worth restating the fact that this Mass was in no way intended as a major public demonstration of support for the Archbishop and the traditional faith - it was made public only at the last minute. Had the Archbishop wished to arrange a demonstration of the massive support he enjoys and asked for this to be organized through the month of August it is doubtful whether there would have been a building in France large enough to accommodate the congregation.

The message which came from Lille was clear .The regime in the Vatican had insisted that the first, the only duty of Catholics was to accept all its directives without question. It wanted absolute and blind obedience. If it forbade today what it commanded yesterday it was not for the faithful to reason why but to obey. But the Catholics present at Lille showed, by their presence, that with Mgr. Lefebvre their commitment is to the traditional faith. In so far as the Vatican upholds that faith it will enjoy their support; where it fails to build up the Body of Christ but introduces measures which effectively undermine it then they will say "No," even to Pope himself.

For the full context of this text, please see Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre, available from Angelus Press.

For detailed information on the events of 1976, please see this talk given by Jean de Viguerie in 2006, "The Hot Summer of 1976 and Archbishop Lefebvre"