DENVER — Members of St. Isidore the Farmer Catholic Church traditionally stop for breaks at two churches as they make their annual 48-mile pilgrimage to Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden.
Not this year.
In a last-minute move, the Archdiocese of Denver barred the group from resting inside the churches during the two-day hike, a move the pilgrims chalk up to their allegiance to a conservative Catholic breakaway movement.
Instead, the pilgrims, who began their journey Friday after a 5 a.m. Mass, rested outside the churches before camping for the night at a nondenominational chapel near Regis University.
“We’re totally surprised, and now we’re totally off-balance as a result,” said Grider Lee, spokesman for St. Isidore.
But it’s not the first time the archdiocese has clashed with St. Isidore, a congregation of about 500 people located five miles east of Denver in Watkins.
St. Isidore belongs to the Society of St. Pius X, an international Catholic religious order founded in 1970. It rejects the influence of the Second Vatican Council and remains dedicated to preserving the traditional faith, including the Tridentine Mass, which is celebrated in Latin.
Archdiocese spokeswoman Jeanette DeMelo said the pilgrims had been disruptive in past years by proselytizing parishioners and leaving pamphlets at the two Denver churches, the Holy Ghost Church and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The Rev. Thomas Fryar, rector of the cathedral, welcomes the “pilgrims to pass by, but asked that they not enter as a group,” Miss DeMelo said. “He specifically asked that they not leave materials and literature and talk to people about Pius X, which they’ve done in the past.”
Mr. Lee insisted the pilgrims only respond to inquiries from curious onlookers.
“We show up looking pretty bedraggled — we’ve walked 25 miles and we’ve got these banners, and people naturally have questions, like ‘Why are you doing this?’ ” he said.
Mr. Lee said the archdiocese might be reacting to the recent move by the Vatican to loosen restrictions on the Tridentine Mass. On July 7, Pope Benedict XVI issued a papal decree allowing churches to celebrate the Tridentine Mass without approval from the local bishop.
The decision was hailed by traditional Catholic groups, but it rattled the church’s more liberal leaders, who worry that the resurrection of the Tridentine Mass could signal a more conservative direction for the Vatican.
“In any organization, you’re going to have the right, the left and the center, and certain people on the left were devastated by [the decision],” Mr. Lee said.
Miss DeMelo said the two issues were entirely separate, noting that the Denver archdiocese includes a church that has for years celebrated the Tridentine Mass.
She pointed out that the Society of St. Pius is “outside communion with the Roman Catholic Church, and therefore outside communion with the Archdiocese of Denver.”
“It’s precisely because they don’t recognize the authority of the Holy Father that they don’t have permission,” Miss DeMelo said. “This has nothing to do with the [Tridentine] Mass.”
St. Isidore began the pilgrimage tradition in 1999, when its pastor prayed to Mother Cabrini to help with the completion of a new church building. The construction was completed in 2001.
“He said, ‘If you’ll help us get this church built, we’ll do a pilgrimage from the site of the church to the shrine,’ ” Mr. Lee said. “It really started out as a one-time thing, but it was such a powerful experience that we decided to do it every year.”