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Priest suspended in Costa Rica for saying Mass in Latin

ROME – Following Pope Francis’s decree restricting the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass, a Catholic priest in Costa Rica is being suspended for disobedience after continuing to celebrate Mass in Latin.

Father Sixto Varela, from the diocese of Alajuela, is now expected to travel to Mexico to receive spiritual direction. In addition, he was forced to resign from his position of parish priest of the parish of St. Joseph.

The decision from Bishop Bartolomé Buigues follows Varela’s decision to say the Latin Mass after the Bishops Conference of Costa Rica banned it following Pope Francis’s July 16, 2021 motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, that restricts the celebration of the liturgy in the Extraordinary form.

“We priests, when we fail in something in our office, we can be sanctioned with a reprimand, in this case Father Sixto accumulated three, one for making comments against the Episcopal Conference, another for speaking against the Government and the third for disobeying a decree in which it was forbidden to perform masses in Latin,” said Luis Hernández, spokesman for the diocese of Alajuela.

On one occasion Varela called the President of the Republic, Carlos Alvarado and his wife, Claudia Dobles, “atheists in disguise” after they attended a religious service, and referred to Alvarado as “Herod” after he legalized therapeutic abortion.

The prelate had also criticized the bishops conference because, in his opinion, they had not stood up to the president.

“It is hoped that the measures taken will achieve the goal of restoring the ecclesial communion and the attainment of the good of the priest mentioned, for which we urge everyone to unite in fervent prayer,” continued Hernandez.

However, Varela says he had complied with the bishops’ conference decree, which only banned the use of the Roman Missal edited by St. John XXIII in 1962, which is used for the traditional Latin Mass.

The priest said he used 1970 Missal — the Ordinary form used for most Masses — but in Latin, and facing East.

Referring to his suspension, Varela said that “of course it has to do with the matter of the Tridentine Mass. I didn’t celebrate this Mass again, but I continued to celebrate in Latin, to accompany this group. But Monsignor [Buigues] didn’t like this either and saw this as a last straw.”

The priest also said that behind the bishop’s decision there is also a lack of “dialogue and comprehension.”

“His excellency [Buigues] considers that there have been repeated displays of disobedience on my part, perhaps in some cases he could be right, not because it has been an act of disobedience as such, but because perhaps a little more dialogue and understanding has been lacking on one side and the other, but well, the matter is settled,” he added.

According to the traditionalist blog Rorate Caeli, the first time Varela said Mass in the Extraordinary Form was in Dec. 13, 2019, and from then on and in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, “having a diocesan priest in the country to celebrate the Traditional Mass in full communion, made the apostolate grow stronger than ever. It went from celebrating a few masses a month, to having 3 masses a week, with an attendance of approximately 250 faithful. Baptisms, marriages, requiem masses were celebrated, and traditional and sacramental customs were revived.”

The Summorum Pontificum Costa Rica Association- named after the motu proprio by Pope Benedict XVI, who had liberalized the use of the Tridentine Form – together with Varela, had approached their bishop following the publication of Traditionis Custodes, to continue celebrating the Mass in this form, taking into consideration that they do not deny the validity of the liturgical reform or the Second Vatican Council.

However, the bishops conference of Costa Rica had issued a statement saying that there are no groups in the country adhering to the former liturgical tradition, and therefore, this Mass could no longer be celebrated in the country.

Encouraged by the faithful he’d been tasked with accompanying, Varela agreed to celebrate the Mass in Latin for them, but following the current Roman Missal, published by the Vatican publishing company.

The diocese of Alajuela then released a statement saying that the only version of the Missal allowed in the diocese was the one edited in Spanish by the Mexican Episcopal Conference.

“I know that a canonical process can be followed, that I could appeal, that I could do a lot of things, but I’m not going to do any of that,” Varela said. “I love the Church and I submit at this moment to the obedience of my bishop. I will be at my parents’ house, I will go to Mexico for three months to an institute that [the bishop] has arranged for me to be accompanied spiritually, psychologically and medically. I will also take advantage of this space for reflection and meditation”.

“I have always criticized that sometimes things happen in the Church and the first ones to hide are the priests. I want to say it clearly: there is no longer any crime typified in the Code of Canon Law to give me a sanction of this magnitude, but it does not matter, I accept it and I have peace. I am going back to my parents’ house with peace of mind,” he said.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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