On September 25, 2021, on the feast of St. Nicolas de Flüe, patron saint of Switzerland, Archbishop Vitus Huonder celebrated his priestly jubilee in the church of the priory of Wil. He had in fact been ordained a priest by Msgr. Johannes Vonderach, then bishop of Coire on September 25, 1971 in the Thalwil church.
The ceremony took place in the church consecrated to the Holy Trinity, before a beautiful audience, some of whom followed the Mass on an exterior screen, taking sanitary conditions into consideration.
15 priests were present to circle the jubilarian, with the participation of the second assistant of the Society of Saint Pius X, Fr. Christian Bouchacourt as well as Fr. Franz Schmidberger.
The choir, directed by Fr. Leonhard Amselgruber, sang the first polyphonic pontifical Mass of Lorenzo Perosi, composed in 1897, most likely for Giuseppe Sarto, the future Pope Pius X, when he was still Patriarch of Venice.
The presence of two Swiss guards—retired—who had received authorization to present themselves in full uniform, were particularly noted.
At the reception which followed, a message from the SSPX Superior General, Fr. Pagliarani was read. He recalled the courageous choice of Archbishop Huonder in his decision to retire in one of the Society’s houses.
An Interview with Archbishop Huonder
One month before the jubilee celebration, Msgr. Huonder gave and interview, in response to question by Fr. Lukan Weber. This interview is available on the US District web site.
In this interview, Msgr. Huonder recalled that he had chosen as his episcopal motto the same motto as Pope St. Pius X: Instaurare omnia in Christo – to renew all things or to strengthen them in Christ.
He recounted how he got closer to Tradition and the SSPX and that he wanted to retire to one of its houses.
He stated thusly: “And now, I am here and I must say that I am very happy. I am in a religious environment that truly supports me, that helps me to live the Faith in an intense manner, even as a bishop emeritus.”
He added that this choice for him is, “a very important responsibility, as a Catholic bishop, to testify to my deep attachment to Tradition before the Church, our Mother, and before the Society. You have to know, I attach great importance to it.”
The prelate also spoke highly of the Society’s work: “I must admit that they are doing marvelous pastoral work here, but also in other places. To have such a Catholic school in a diocese was my dream back then. But you no longer find this type of school in our regions. I am speaking particularly about Europe, central Europe….”
“I would like to congratulate the Society for managing such schools, and more generally that their priests are close to their faithful. We need these pastors. The faithful too are waiting for these pastors; they depend on them.”
“I recently visited the seminary at Zaitzkofen. I have seen the formation that the priests are receiving. I said then to the director: here we have a model for the Church. The leaders of the Church would do well to return to the formation that is given here, in the Society.”
“Ideally no priest is left alone, but rather is in a small community that supports him. All these elements are in fact models for the Church today, to show her how to renew herself. This is what I would like to say about the Society.”
On the subject of the Mass, the former bishop of Coire asserts regarding the traditional Roman rite: “One is truly before God, before Jesus, and not simply in front of a community. All that I can rediscover in the traditional rite is so precious and, let’s say, so intemporal that I don’t want to go back.”
“I no longer want to do it. I sense simply that I can no longer do it, because when you are immersed in the traditional Mass, you simply come to a point where you sense that you can no longer do anything else.”
“I always say: the rite as we have it is a profession of faith, and a profession of faith cannot be simply set aside. What would you say if, as a bishop, I stopped praying the Apostles’ Creed? What would these faithful say about me? They would say to me: What’s the matter with you? That is not possible!”
“We must not forget that the traditional rite, especially because it has the weight of years, this maturity, is also a profession of faith. They cannot demand that the faithful put aside this profession of faith.”
Regarding Traditionis Custodes, the bishop emeritus of Coire asserts: “You can imagine that this has affected me very much, saddened me, yes, I cried. I did not expect this. I don’t see what the causes are.”
“There are so many people who are affected by this and not only priests, but there are faithful who are who are affected, children, young people, families, because I can say that, in Tradition, we have numerous families.”
“That makes me deeply sad and I really ask my confreres in the episcopacy, in particular the cardinals, to reconsider the whole affair,…. That is their duty, because it is not simply an ecclesiastical law, it is a decree. It goes to the heart of the Faith. And to attack the heart of the Faith of the faithful in this way, it is simply not good.”