Open hearts to Latin Mass, Benedict says

Saying that he had witnessed how "arbitrary deformations of the liturgy" following Vatican II caused "deep pain" for people, Pope Benedict on Saturday issued his long awaited motu proprio easing restrictions on the celebration of the Tridentine Mass.

Pope Benedict's motu proprio (or formal direction) deals with the use of the 1962 Roman Missal in which he clarifies the place of the pre-Vatican II Mass in the life of the Church, according to a statement from the Australian bishops.

Fr Peter Williams, Executive Officer of the National Liturgical Office, said that since 1969 Catholics have used the post-Vatican II Missal of Pope Paul VI and from the early 1970s provision was made for the celebration of Mass and other liturgical rites in the vernacular.

"The form of Mass celebrated in Catholic parishes in Australia today is a translation of that Missal in English," he said

"Pope Benedict in this motu proprio expresses that the Missal in use at the time of the Council was never legally abrogated, and thus is still a legitimate form for celebrating Mass."

The new document permits any Latin rite priest to celebrate according to the Missal of 1962 in private, but also makes provision that if a group of people in a parish request a celebration of the Missal of 1962 that he should give serious consideration to the request.

"The Holy Father stresses that above all the unity and cohesion of the Parish communities should be the primary outcome of the celebration of any form of the liturgy," says Fr Williams, giving background to the motu proprio.

According to Fr Williams, the pope refers to the 1962 Missal as an "extraordinary" form of the Roman rite with the Missal of Paul VI being the "ordinary" form.

"Already in Australia provision is made for celebrations of the Missal of 1962 in a number of places. It is not expected that there will be any considerable change to the pattern of worship established in most Catholic parishes in Australia," Fr Williams said.

In an explanatory letter, Pope Benedict said that the motu proprio would help reconcile Catholics after the "turmoil" that followed Vatican II.

"Afterwards, it soon became apparent that a good number of people remained strongly attached to this usage of the Roman Rite, which had been familiar to them from childhood," Pope Benedict said according to Catholic News Service.

Benedict also referred Archbishop Lefebvre and his Society of St Pius X.

Amongst this group, "fidelity to the old Missal became an external mark of identity; the reasons for the break, which arose over this, however, were at a deeper level."

"This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorising or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear," the pope said.


However, fears continue to be expressed from several quarters.

The strongest apprehensions were voiced by French and German bishops, who worried that internal church unity - and their own authority - could be weakened by creating parallel worshipping communities, Catholic News Service says.

Other bishops said the move could be seen as delegitimising the liturgical reform of Vatican II.

The pope, in his personal letter, dismissed both fears as "unfounded."

He blamed in part "news reports and judgments made without sufficient information" for confusion over his decision and for divergent reactions ranging from joyful acceptance to harsh opposition.

However, Jewish organisations also expressed fears that the revived Mass will contain a prayer for conversion of Jews.

Pope Benedict XVI issues directions on the use of the 1962 Missal (ACBC Media Release, 8/7/07)
Pope establishes the full return of the Roman Missal from 1962 with new letter (Catholic News Agency, 7/7/07)
Pope relaxes restrictions on use of Tridentine Mass (Catholic News Service, 7/7/07)
At a glance: Pope's letter, norms on Tridentine Mass (Catholic News Service, 7/7/07)
Pope frees up use of old Latin Mass, stresses no reversal on Vatican II (International Herald Tribune, 7/7/07)
Pope: faithful may have "Tridentine" Mass if they wish (AsiaNews, 7/7/07)
Pope scraps 40-year restrictions on Latin Mass (Daily Telegraph, 7/7/07)
Pope's reinstatement of old-style Mass angers Jews (Belfast Telegraph, 7/7/07)
Foxman meets Vatican, Italian officials (JTA News, 6/7/07)
New document re: "subsistit" expected (Kath.net, 6/7/07)
Jewish groups protest Pope's decision to revive old Latin mass (Ynet Neqw, 8/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Unofficial translation of papal text on use of Tridentine Mass (Catholic News Service, 7/7/07))
Text of Pope Benedict XVI's letter to bishops on Tridentine Mass (Catholic News Service, 7/7/07)
Tridentine Mass

Cardinal confirms plans to revive Latin Mass (CathNews, 21/5/07)
Experts concerned over Latin Mass slight to Jews (CathNews, 24/4/07)
"Personal parish" for French Latin Mass Catholics (CathNews, 7/2/07)
French clerics warn against return of Latin Mass traditionalists (CathNews, 24/10/06)
Benedict expected to restore wider availability of Latin Mass (CathNews, 12/10/06)
Pope to discuss reconciliation with rebels (CathNews, 3/2/06)
Pope's fresh attempt to build bridge with rebels (CathNews, 24/8/05)
Schismatic society lobbies Australian priests on Tridentine rite (CathNews, 3/2/05)
Schismatic group expels its own rebels (CathNews, 14/9/04)
Traditionalist leader attacks Pope's ecumenical vision (CathNews, 4/2/04)
Tridentine rite Mass for Roman basilica this month (CathNews, 5/5/03)
Vatican olive branch to Lefebvrist rebels 'not working' (CathNews, 26/3/02)
Ratzinger calls Lefebvrist schismatics narrow-minded (CathNews, 5/4/01)

9 Jul 2007