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2: Restrictions eased on Latin Mass.

Vatican City -- On July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued his long-awaited statement, Summorum Pontificum, on the wider use of Latin in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. It was accompanied by a Letter from the Pope to the bishops of the world concerning its practical implementation.

There are to be two forms of the Roman liturgy: the ordinary form which dates from 1970, with Mass in the vernacular as introduced by Pope Paul VI. (Its official version is in Latin also.) This is the version with which most Catholics are familiar today. It features the Mass almost completely in the local language, including a selection of Eucharistic Prayers in the Canon, and a three-year cycle of Sunday readings from Old and New Testaments.

From September onwards, an extraordinary form is to be permitted using the Missale Romanum published by Pope John XXIII in 1962. It is said in Latin, including the readings, and uses one Eucharistic Prayer, the "Roman Canon," recited by the celebrant in a low voice, facing East. The Mass concludes with the first chapter of St. John's Gospel.

The Easter Tridiuum will not be affected by the changes. Although the ordinary form, which was twice revised by Pope John Paul II, will remain the normal, everyday form of the liturgy, Pope Benedict in his letter to the bishops noted that many of the faithful remained "strongly attached" to the older rite. These, and other faithful, were often distressed by examples of unauthorized liturgical innovations with the 1970 "Novus Ordo" version which frequently led to "arbitrary deformations of the liturgy." He also notes that many younger people "have discovered this liturgical form, [and] felt its attraction."

The Pope's new directives allow for the use of the 1962 Missal by all priests, whether diocesan or religious. Permission from the local bishop is no longer required. It may, or may not, be attended by lay faithful. Parishes may institute such Masses when requested by "a stable group of faithful." This would ordinarily work out as one Latin Mass on each Sunday or feast day, or, on request at such occasions as marriages or funerals. Readings at these Masses "may be given in the vernacular, using editions recognized by the Apostolic See." All the Sacraments, too, may be delivered in Latin according to the old rite.

In his letter to the bishops, Benedict makes it plain that there are not now two rites, but two forms of one and the same rite. He urges the bishops to support members of the faithful who desire to introduce the extraordinary form into their parishes.

The Pope addressed two fears which may trouble bishops. One is that the wider use of Latin might detract from the Second Vatican Council's focus on liturgical reform. He declared this fear "unfounded." While noting that the 1962 missal was never "judicially abrogated and consequently ... always permitted," he emphasized that the 1970 Novus Ordo version would continue as the regular form of worship.

Secondly, the Pope does not believe that the use of the Latin Mass will cause confusion, "or even division in parish communities," if only for the very practical reason that the knowledge and use of the Latin language is very limited nowadays. In the interest of unity and "interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church," the Pope encourages the bishops to exercise "charity and pastoral prudence" when resolving any disputes around liturgical forms in their dioceses. He emphasizes that the new norms will take nothing away from a bishop's authority. If there are any problems, these could be reviewed in three years' time. The new liturgical norms are to be observed as from the feast of Exaltation of the Cross, September 14, 2007.

International news agencies (Reuters, Assoc. Press, Guardian) did try to rouse the alarmists in opposition. Most prominent of them was the American Jewish Anti-Defamation League which immediately launched the idea that the wording of older prayers about Jews might be revived when no such thing was contemplated. The Vatican quashed that notion immediately.

As for bishops who have resisted the move, the Pope's letter addressed the fears competently and serenely.

In general, the Holy Father hopes that the wider use of the Latin Mass will effect a deeper understanding of the Mass in the local languages. In the three books he authored on the liturgy as Cardinal Ratzinger, the one thing he rejected outright as erroneous and contrary to the whole history of the liturgy in the Church, was the abrupt rejection of the Missal of Pius V in 1970 and its suppression in fact, if not in theory.

The consequence of this was not only the loss of tradition. Rootless innovations in the new liturgy spilled over into other areas of theology, such as the idea that just as liturgy can be changed overnight, so Catholic doctrine in general can be as well.

Pope Benedict hopes that the reverse will now take place: a restored use of the traditional Mass updated by Pope John XXIII will better signify the unity of the Church the world over and, as noted, influence the vernacular Mass as well towards a greater appreciation of its noble and sacred character.

English-speaking nations should also remember that the process of a the new definitive translation of the Mass is well underway. The new translation is much closer to the original Latin than the hurried version produced in the 1960s. The new English missal will be complete by the end of 2007 or the beginning of 2008. It should become available by 2009. The emphasis there, too, is on unity among the numerous English-speaking countries.

Finally, the document is also a gesture of reconciliation to the followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the Pius X Society in the hope that the division with the traditionalists may be overcome.
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Title Annotation:Vatican
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Sep 1, 2007
Previous Article:1: Pope's letter to Chinese Catholics.
Next Article:3: Document on the Church.

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