|Bishop Fernando Rifan|
Author unknown, published as 'fair use'
(source: LMS Clifton blog)
Bishop Fernando Rifan heads the Priestly Union / Society of St John Mary Vianney, also known as the Personal Apostolic Administration of St John Mary Vianney, which serves traditional Catholics in Brazil. His status in the Catholic Church is therefore rather unique, for he is a type of ‘flying bishop’ for traditional Catholics in that country, especially those who live in the area normally covered by the Diocese of Campos. Erected by Blessed John Paul II, Bishop Rifan’s Apostolic Administration serves those members of the Church who, under the episcopal authority of the then Bishop Antônio de Castro Mayer of Campos, refused to use the new Missal of Pope Paul VI when it was published.
During the aftermath of Vatican II’s liturgical revolution, Bishop de Castro Mayer continued to use the older liturgy in his diocese. Even after his retirement in the early 1980’s, the brave Bishop provided support and leadership for those Catholics within his former diocese who opposed the liturgical and ecclesial experiments of those years of horror and confusion more commonly known as the 1970's and 80's! Eventually, de Castro Mayer became a supporter of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the Society of St Pius X. Before his death, he also founded the Priestly Society of St John Mary Vianney for his priests and followers in Brazil.
After Bishop de Castro Mayer's death in 1991, the Priestly Union of St John Mary Vianney was led by his successor, Bishop Lincinio Rangel. He and some of his flock – together with members of the SSPX – subsequently went on pilgrimage to Rome during the Jubilee Year in 2000. They were warmly welcomed by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, then President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. As a result, the members of the Society of St John Mary Vianney, representing tens of thousands of traditional Catholics in Campos, formally sought reconciliation with Rome. Within less than two years, Blessed John Paul II lifted the ban of excommunication against Bishop Rangel, who had been illicitly consecrated by bishops of the SSPX. The Pope also welcomed the whole Society back into full communion with the Catholic Church at the same time. Then, in January 2002, the John Paul II established a special Personal Apostolic Administration to serve the needs of the priests and people of Campos and Brazil who were attached to the Tridentine Liturgy.
On the eve of the Feast of St Peter & St Paul 2002, Pope John Paul II appointed Fernando Rifan as Bishop Rangel’s coadjutor, with right of succession. Upon Rangel’s death in December 2002, Bishop Rifan became the Apostolic Administrator of the Personal Apostolic Administration of St John Mary Vianney, which is non-territorial, but roughly covers the same area as the Diocese of Campos, which is headed by Bishop Roberto Francisco Ferrería Paz. The most recent edition of the Annuario Pontificio reveals that the Administration of St John Mary Vianney has 30,733 lay members, 32 priests, 7 seminarians, 38 religious sisters and 24 schools – equivalent to about 4% of the number of laity in the Diocese of Campos, but about half the number of area's total number of Catholic priests, religious and schools.
One of the great things about Bishop Rifan and his Society or Administration is the fact that his ministry offers hope for the whole universal Church, especially as more and more ordinary Catholics become attached to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. Needless to say, the day will come when other territories, dioceses, and countries, will need either apostolic administrators, auxiliary bishops or other such prelates to serve the needs of traditional members of the Latin Church. The fact that the Priestly Society of St John Mary Vianney was received so successfully and smoothly back into full communion with Rome also bodes well for those members of the Society of St Pius X who genuinely wish to fully acknowledge the Christ-given authority of the Successor of St Peter.
I would like to urge all those who are attached to the usus antiquior, or who are interested in traditional Catholicism, or who would simply just like to attend this special event, to make every effort to go along to Bishop Rifan’s Mass at St George’s Cathedral on Saturday. He will also, I believe, be offering a Pontifical Low Mass at the Brompton Oratory on Sunday morning at 9.00am. Bishop Rifan’s ministry is both unique and highly important to the life of the whole Church, therefore his presence here in the UK is something very much to celebrate and give thanks to God for. It is also, of course, good for us to offer thanksgiving to God for the Latin Mass Society – for preserving and maintaining the traditional Latin Mass throughout those dark post-Vatican II days, and for continuing to promote the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite for all those who are attached to it, or who are yet to (re)discover it.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if, one day, every ecclesial territory or bishops' conference within the Roman Rite had its own traditional bishop, like Bishop Rifan?
Related to the above
Last week, Juventutem London organised a very well attended Pontifical High Mass, celebrated by Bishop Alan Hopes of Westminster (see Juventutem London and the NEW Juventutem website and Facebook page).
Bishop Rifan has already visited other parts of the UK during the past week, offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Harrogate, and also at the LMS Pilgrimage to Holywell, and in Edinburgh. To read about these events, please see: LMS Chairman and Linen on the Hedgerow, to name but a few blogs (many of which are linked to on the LMS Chairman blog)that have covered these events.
Thank God that we live in such wonderful times!