Traditionalists happy, others doubtful over Latin Mass revival

Excommunicated Society of St Pius X Bishop Bernard Fellay has thanked Pope Benedict for allowing greater use of the Tridentine Mass even though doctrinal differences still remain while Jewish groups and other Catholics continue to express doubts over the new papal directives.

Catholic News Service reports that Bishop Fellay, head of the Swiss-based society, said the papal decision had created a "favourable climate" to consider the doctrinal issues more calmly.

"The Society of St Pius X rejoices to see the church thus regain her liturgical tradition and give the possibility of a free access to the treasure of the traditional Mass for the glory of God, the good of the church and the salvation of souls, to the priests and faithful who had so far been deprived of it," the statement said.

The society expressed "its deep gratitude to the sovereign pontiff for this great spiritual benefit."

The statement went on to say that the Vatican should withdraw excommunication decrees against the society's leadership to allow further progress in their dialogue.

The society, which rejects many of the changes introduced by the Second Vatican Council, broke with the Vatican in 1988 when its late founder, French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained four bishops against papal instructions. Bishop Fellay was one of those ordained.

Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter "Ecclesia Dei" ("Church of God") the same year said Archbishop Lefebvre and the ordained bishops had excommunicated themselves by their acts.

In a meeting in 2005 with Pope Benedict, Bishop Fellay asked for the restoration of the Tridentine rite as a sign of good will.

The papal decree allows the Tridentine Mass to be celebrated by any priest privately and in parishes where it is requested by groups of the faithful.

In an explanatory letter accompanying his document, the pope noted the importance of the Tridentine Mass to the breakaway Lefebvrite order but said the reasons for their break with the Vatican "were at a deeper level."

Bishop Fellay's statement said the papal letter "does not hide ... the difficulties that still remain."

Meanwhile, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the Vatican official who has led the dialogue effort with the Lefebvrites, said the concession on the Tridentine Mass offered a potential breakthrough opportunity.

"With this 'motu proprio' (a phrase that signifies a pope is acting on his own initiative) the door has been opened for a return to full communion by the Society of St Pius X. If this return does not happen after this act, I truly wouldn't understand it," Cardinal Castrillon said in an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.

Pope's letter "body blow": Jewish group

Elsewhere, US Jewish leader, Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, described the letter "a theological setback in the religious life of Catholics and a body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations."

In an interview with Catholic News Service in Rome, Foxman said, "I thought I had been heard, but I guess not."

Foxman said the fact that the phrase "perfidious Jews" was removed from the Good Friday liturgy by Pope John XXIII in 1959 and, therefore, does not appear in the 1962 text authorised by Pope Benedict is a good thing.

But the 1962 Good Friday liturgy does include a prayer for the conversion of the Jews, asking God to remove "the veil from their hearts" and help them overcome their "blindness."

The prayer says: "Let us pray also for the Jews that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, you do not refuse your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness."

Foxman told CNS, "They understand that 'perfidious' was offensive, but how is this any less offensive?"

Rabbi Ron Kronish, director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, said that he had read about the edict only in the press.

"Based on reports in the newspapers this appears to be a step backward. I think in discussions with our Catholic counterparts in dialogue the next few months, this will certainly be on our agenda, and we will be looking for clarifications and assurances that it is not what it appears to be as reported in the press," said Rabbi Kronish.

Catholic reaction

The New Zealand Herald reports that some bishops in France as well as liberal clergy and Catholics elsewhere have expressed concerns that allowing freer use of the Tridentine liturgy would imply a negation of Vatican II.

They also feared it could create divisions in parishes, since two different liturgies would be celebrated.

The liberal French Catholic magazine Temoignage Chretien published an editorial in Latin explaining that it was not concerned about the language in which the Mass was celebrated but by "the view of the outside world held by most supporters of the traditional rite ... of a church that sees itself as the sole holder of the truth. Forty years after the Second Vatican Council, this stand is untenable".

However, Pope Benedict told bishops that such fears are "unfounded" as the Mass celebrated in the vernacular remained the "normal" form while the older version was an "extraordinary" one that would probably be sought by only relatively few Catholics.

Traditionalists: Differences still remain after Tridentine document (Catholic Online, 9/7/07)
ADL head calls pope's Tridentine Mass letter a 'theological setback' (Catholic News Service, 9/7/07)
Pope's easing on Latin rites sparks outcry (New Zealand Herald, 9/7/07)

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

Open hearts to Latin Mass, Benedict says (CathNews, 9/7/07)
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)

10 Jul 2007