The Vatican is expecting mixed reactions to a papal document that will allow for wider use of the traditional Latin Mass.
According to the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI will release the document, titled "Summorum pontificum", on 7 July. Its aim is said to be to make it easier for priests to celebrate the Latin Mass, sometimes called the Tridentine Mass. This Mass was established in the 16th century by Pope Pius V following the Council of Trent.
In 1963, Pope Paul VI declared that the Tridentine Mass would no longer be celebrated following reforms by the Second Vatican Council. Reforms to the church’s liturgy at the time allowed for the greater use of local languages in the Mass.
Now, however, a number of French Catholic bishops have warned against the latest papal move.
In October 2006, in a joint statement, the bishops warned that permission for a more generalised use of the Latin Mass, "will call into question the direction taken by the Second Vatican Council. Such a decision also has the potential to cause harm to the unity existing between priests, no less than that between the faithful."
Under current rules, a bishop must give approval for the use of the older Mass.
The late, controversial French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre criticised Paul VI’s reforms, and accused the pope of changing the Catholic Church "for ever". Lefebvre was excommunicated by the Vatican in 1988 after he consecrated four bishops without the agreement of Rome, which saw the affair as an act of rebellion.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as he was known before he became the current pontiff in 2005, had also criticised the Paul VI reforms. Some analysts believe Pope Benedict’s decision to liberalise the celebration of the Latin Mass is intended as a bridge to Lefebvre’s followers and a way to encourage them to move closer to the Catholic church.
The document is being issued as a "motu proprio", Latin for "on one’s own initiative", and this indicates that the Pope has a special personal interest in the matter. [
(c) Ecumenical News International
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