THE Pope is taking steps to revive the ancient tradition of the Latin Tridentine Mass in Catholic churches worldwide, according to sources in Rome.
Pope Benedict XVI is understood to have signed a universal indult — or permission — for priests to celebrate again the Mass used throughout the Church for nearly 1,500 years. The indult could be published in the next few weeks, sources told The Times.
Use of the Tridentine Mass, parts of which date from the time of St Gregory in the 6th century and which takes its name from the 16th-century Council of Trent, was restricted by most bishops after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).
This led to the introduction of the new Mass in the vernacular to make it more accessible to contemporary audiences. By bringing back Mass in Latin, Pope Benedict is signalling that his sympathies lie with conservatives in the Catholic Church.
One of the most celebrated rebels against its suppression was Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who broke with Rome in 1988 over this and other reforms. He was excommunicated after he consecrated four bishops, one of them British, without permission from the Pope.
Some Lefebvrists, including those in Brazil, have already been readmitted. An indult permitting the celebration of the Tridentine Mass could help to bring remaining Lefebvrists and many other traditional Catholics back to the fold.
The priests of England and Wales are among those sometimes given permission to celebrate the Old Mass according to the 1962 Missal. Tridentine Masses are said regularly at the Oratory and St James’s Spanish Place in London, but are harder to find outside the capital.
The new indult would permit any priest to introduce the Tridentine Mass to his church, anywhere in the world, unless his bishop has explicitly forbidden it in writing.
Catholic bloggers have been anticipating the indult for months. The Cornell Society blog says that Father Martin Edwards, a London priest, was told by Cardinal Joseph Zen, of Hong Kong, that the indult had been signed. Cardinal Zen is alleged to have had this information from the Pope himself in a private meeting.
“There have been false alarms before, not least because within the Curia there are those genuinely well-disposed to the Latin Mass, those who are against and those who like to move groups within the Church like pieces on a chessboard,” a source told The Times. “But hopes have been raised with the new pope. It would fit with what he has said and done on the subject. He celebrated in the old rite, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.”
The 1962 Missal issued by Pope John XXIII was the last of several revisions of the 1570 Missal of Pius V. In a lecture in 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger said that it would be “fatal” for the Missal to be “placed in a deep-freeze, left like a national park, a park protected for the sake of a certain kind of people, for whom one leaves available these relics of the past”.
Daphne McLeod, chairman of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, a UK umbrella group that campaigns for the restoration of traditional orthodoxy, said: “A lot of young priests are teaching themselves the Tridentine Mass because it is so beautiful and has prayers that go back to the Early Church.”
# The Tridentine Mass is celebrated entirely in Latin, except for a few words and phrases in Greek and Hebrew. There are long periods of silence and the priest has his back to the congregation
# In 1570, Pope St Pius V said that priests could use the Tridentine rite forever, “without scruple of conscience or fear of penalty”
# Since the Second Vatican Council, the Tridentine Mass has been almost entirely superseded by the Mass of Pope Paul VI
# Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who took the lead in opposing the reforms, continued to celebrate the old Mass at his seminary in Ecône, Switzerland, and formed a dissident group. He was excommunicated in 1988
# The advantages of the Mass, according to the faithful, are in its uniformity and the fact that movements and gestures are prescribed, so that there is no room for “personalisation”