VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict will tell Roman Catholic priests in coming days that they can say mass in Latin as a concession to traditionalists.
However, the move has raised concern about reviving parts of the old liturgy that Jews consider anti-Semitic.
The Latin liturgy was sidelined by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s in favour of local languages in an attempt to make worship more accessible to the bulk of churchgoers.
After months of speculation that the old rite, known as the Tridentine mass, could return, the Vatican said on Thursday the Pope had met senior clerics a day earlier to discuss “the content and the spirit” of a papal document on the matter.
“The publication of this document, to be accompanied by a full personal letter from the Holy Father to individual bishops, is foreseen within a few days,” a Vatican statement said.
The document is known as a ‘motu propio’ and will be issued in Latin, still the official language of the Vatican.
Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone told reporters that the document would authorise the mass under the Tridentine rite “in coming days”.
He said the Pope would explain “the reason for reviving and reactivating the pre-Council version of the liturgy, which is a great treasure”.
Traditionalists can now say mass in Latin only with prior permission from a bishop, and the liturgy is heard only rarely.
French Catholic daily La Croix said the decision had met reservations in France and the United States, where some bishops feared their authority would be undermined if priests could decide alone whether to return to the old Latin rite.
Patrizia Parker, attending a Latin service in Rome at the Church of San Gregorio dei Muratori, said she found the old liturgy more profound.
“It gives me a more sacred feeling and allows me to enter into the mystery of the mass,” she said. “It’s not because of its historic roots, but it is a profound feeling within my heart.”
However, there are concerns that a revival of the Latin words could undo the effect of the 1960s reforms in removing sources of strain between Catholics and Jews.
The Council sought to eliminate prejudices blaming Jews for the death of Jesus by highlighting Christianity’s ancient Jewish roots and affirming God’s love for other faiths.
Church sources deny that a return of Latin liturgies would invalidate these reforms, though it is not yet clear whether the prayers in question, used in Good Friday services, would be retained or amended.
Pope Benedict stirred inter-faith tensions with the Muslim world last year by making a speech in Germany including a medieval quote about Islam being spread by violence.
Additional reporting by Cristiano Corvino
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