Father Frederico Lombardi, SJ, who is the Vatican's official spokesman, has revealed in an official statement regarding the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate on Wednesday that a house is being sought in Rome for members of the religious order who are studying at the Vatican's Pontifical colleges and universities. The news that community living quarters are desired for members of the controversial religious order are a clear indication that relations betweet the Congregation and the FFI are warming significantly.
Father Lombardi also revealed that the seminarians of the order were received in private audience at the St. Martha Residence to meet with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, along with Father Fidinzio Volpi, the Commissioner appointed by the Vatican to supervise the reform of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. The FFI is known around the world for the preference of its members for the Tridentine Mass, or Mass of the Council of Trent, as celebrated according to the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal. This practice is not only normally permitted, but is more widely used in the Church today than at any time since the 1960's because of the apostolic letter of Pope Benedict XVI Sommorum Pontificum, which permitted the wider celebration of the "old rite" within the Church. However, the FFI came under criticism because some houses were celebrating the 1962 Rite exclusively, and were not saying Mass at all according to the current rite in use. At present, while the FFI are under the control of an apostolic delegate, its priests must ask permission to celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
The meeting between Pope Francis and FFI seminarians this week would seem to indicate that this more strict supervision may soon come to an end, and that the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate may soon be able to return to wider use of the Extraordinary Form for themselves and the faithful that they serve.