Vatican increases pressure to allow Latin mass

VATICAN CITY Fri May 13, 2011 7:37am EDT

Pope Benedict XVI (R) leads the Easter Vigil mass in Saint Peter Basilica in Vatican April 23, 2011. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Benedict XVI (R) leads the Easter Vigil mass in Saint Peter Basilica in Vatican April 23, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican told Catholic bishops around the world on Friday they had to obey a papal order allowing priests to say the old-style Latin mass for traditionalist Catholics, whether they liked it or not.

The Vatican issued an "instruction" to bishops as a follow-up to a 2007 papal decree authorizing the wider adoption of the Latin Mass, which was in universal use before the 1962-1965 Vatican Council introduced masses in local languages.

The re-instatement of the Latin mass was one of the demands of ultra-traditionalists whose leaders were excommunicated in 1988, prompting the first schism in modern times.

The pope, in a nod the traditionalists, satisfied many of them in 2007 when he allowed a wider use of the Latin mass, in which the priest faced east with his back to the faithful for most of the service.

But some bishops around the world said privately it was a headache because of the scarcity of priests trained in Latin, and logistical problems inserting Latin mass in their schedule.

The five-page instruction from the Vatican's doctrinal department, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made it clear that the pope wants bishops to follow his orders.

"It is the task of the Diocesan bishop to undertake all necessary measures to ensure respect for the 'forma extraordinaria'," the instruction said, using a Latin term for the old liturgy.

While couched in polite, institutional language, the instruction said local parishes had to insert a Latin mass into their liturgical schedules if tradionalist faithful wanted it.

It also said pastors of parishes should show "a spirit of generous welcome" to whose who wanted the old mass and had to "permit such a celebration."


The return of the mass met with resistance in many places and has been privately opposed by some bishops, who either have dragged their feet in implementing the decree or put it on the back burner, saying they had more pressing issues to deal with.

Most Catholics regard the old mass as nostalgic, rigid and something that turns the clock back on the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which for some brought the church into modern times.

Vatican officials charged with trying to bring traditionalists back into the fold have acknowledged resistance.

A Vatican official said recently that only a third of the world's bishops responded to a Vatican questionnaire and that prejudice against the old mass was "still widespread."

The return of the Latin liturgy has been controversial even in inter-religious relations.

During Good Friday services in the old liturgy, traditionalists still read a prayer in which they pray that Jews will "recognize Jesus Christ as the savior of all men."

Benedict's determination to bring back some traditional elements in the Church led to a major row in 2009 when he lifted the excommunication ban on four bishops, including one -- Richard Williamson -- who is a known Holocaust denier.

This caused an uproar among many Catholics and Jews as well as some politicians in his native Germany.

(Additional reporting by Tom Heneghan in Paris)

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Comments (5)
Midwester wrote:
Most Catholics regard the old mass as nostalgic, rigid and something that turns the clock back on the reforms of the Second Vatican Council? Where do you get your information on this? Not true. Most Catholics have no opinion on the Tridentine Mass because they haven’t ever been to one. Hopefully the clarification of the requirement that bishops follow the Motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” will expose “most Catholics” to the sublime beauty of the Tridentine Mass.

May 13, 2011 8:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
ratatat wrote:
I am 46 yrs old…I remember as a child the changes coming slowly into the mass as a result of the second Vatican council.I had never however experianced the Latin mass until my friend..a young priest in his early 30′s celebrated it in my home before a group of about 25.I was completely taken in by the holiness and reverence of it.Although I did’nt understand Latin I was still able to follow the mass.Since then my grandmother had passed away and I had found a bunch of daily mass missiles dating back to 1955..the mass as it was celebrated back then in Latin with English translations..the wording of the prayers in these books and the way mass was celebrated makes me hunger more for a return to this form of mass.If not completely in Latin at least to bring back the reverence and holiness and attention or focus on the worship of God than the watered down feel good self centered mass of today.It’s becomming harder to sit through todays masses with the protestant style music..the lack of respect in dress,attitude etc.The use of extraordinary ministers is still one of the biggest affronts of all.The way the eucharist is revered and celebrated as well as handled in the Latin mass is the way it should always have been.I am thankful that the Vatican and Pope Benedict is addressing this issue.I believe that the misinterpretation of Vatican 2 has grossly distorted the mass as well as the Catholic faith and our identity which has led to the falling away of many and introduced a do what makes you feel happy type atmosphere of worship that reeks of the stian of protestantism.

May 13, 2011 10:40am EDT  --  Report as abuse
ann1107 wrote:
An additional observation to the ridiculousness of the “most Catholics regard the old mass as nostalgic, rigid and something that turns the clock back…” comment: The people would not be asking for access to the Tridentine Mass if they had such an indifferent or negative view of it. All the Pope is saying is that the Bishops can not fall back on the lame “it’s too hard to train the priests” excuse. Bishops should not be denying the faithful this beautiful and historical gem of the Church out of laziness on their own part. Allowing both the Novus Ordo and Tridentine masses to be experienced side by side will further deepen Catholic’s understanding of Christ and the Church.

May 13, 2011 11:37am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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