Agatha Christie indult

The "Agatha Christie indult" is a nickname applied to the permission granted in 1971 by Pope Paul VI for the use of the Tridentine Mass in England and Wales. "Indult" is a term from Catholic canon law referring to a permission to do something that would otherwise be forbidden.


Following the introduction of the Mass of Paul VI to replace the former rite in 1969-70, a petition was sent to the Pope asking that the Tridentine rite be permitted to continue for those who wished in England and Wales. The petition noted the exceptional artistic and cultural heritage of the Tridentine liturgy, and was signed by many prominent non-Catholic figures in British society, including Agatha Christie, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Kenneth Clark, Robert Graves, F. R. Leavis, Cecil Day-Lewis, Nancy Mitford, Iris Murdoch, Yehudi Menuhin, Joan Sutherland and two Anglican bishops, those of Exeter and of Ripon.[1]

John Cardinal Heenan approached Pope Paul VI and asked that use of the Tridentine Mass be permitted. On 5 November 1971, the Pope granted the request. Between then and the granting of the worldwide "universal indult" in 1984, the bishops of England and Wales were authorized to grant permission for the occasional celebration of Mass in the old form, with the modifications introduced in 1965 and 1967.[2]

English Roman Catholics had a particular attachment to the Tridentine Mass, as the Mass which had been celebrated by the English martyrs of the Reformation and by priests in the years in which Catholicism had been subjected to sometimes severe persecution. The indult acquired its nickname by virtue of a story told about the Pope's acceptance of the petition:

The story is that Pope Paul read through the letter in silence then suddenly exclaimed, "Ah, Agatha Christie!" and then signed it. Though not a Catholic at the time, Christie rejected the 20th century rite as the desecration of the historic church that it was. The indult was granted in 1971. Ever since it has been known informally as "the Agatha Christie indult".[3]

Signatories of the original appeal

The signatories of the original appeal to Pope Paul VI were:

See also


  1. Rediscovering Traditionalism, John Casey
  2. The English Indult - "an Object of Fraternal Envy" Archived 12 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine. by Dr. Eric de Savanthem
  3. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MASS SINCE 1960 (What Vatican II Really Said) Archived 16 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine., Speech by Leo Darroch, Deputy Chairman of the Latin Mass Society
  4. The Bernard and Barbara Wall Papers, Georgetown University Library

External links

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