Vatican tightens conservatives’ screw on traditional Latin mass


Pope Francis leaves after organizing an ecumenical prayer with migrants at the parish church of the Holy Cross in Nicosia, Cyprus on December 3, 2021. REUTERS / Guglielmo Mangiapane

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VATICAN CITY, Dec. 18 (Reuters) – The Vatican on Saturday warned conservative Roman Catholics who balked at Pope Francis’ decision to restrict the old traditionalist Latin Mass that they were sowing division and engaging in “sterile polemics “.

The Vatican department overseeing the sacraments and the liturgy issued a directive in response to bishops’ requests for clarification following a document in July in which Francis overturned the decisions of his two predecessors and restricted access to the mass.

Since July, some conservatives, including bishops, have openly challenged the Pope, resulting in the final chapter of what some have dubbed the Church’s “liturgical wars”.

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Religious conservatives in the United States in particular have used the Latin Mass debate to align themselves with the politically conservative media to criticize the Pope on a host of other issues such as climate change, immigration and social justice .

“As pastors, we must not give ourselves to sterile polemics, capable only of creating divisions, in which the ritual (the mass) itself is often exploited by ideological points of view,” wrote the Archbishop Arthur Roche, head of the department, in an introductory letter to the answers to 11 questions.

Saturday’s document said that conservatives who favor the Latin Mass cannot use such a sacred part of Catholicism to deny the “validity and legitimacy” of Vatican Council II reforms of 1962-1965, which included an opening on the modern world and dialogue with other religions. , especially Judaism.

He also clarified that the pre-Vatican II Latin rites should not be used for other sacraments, such as confirmation.

Joseph Shaw, president of the Latin Mass Society in Britain, said in a tweet that the document “will have serious negative consequences” and will push Catholics who want to stay united with their bishop to join extremist groups.

Before the Council, the Catholic Mass was an elaborate ritual led in Latin by a priest facing east, with his back to the congregation. Vatican II modernized the liturgy, including more active participation of the congregation, and asked the priest to face the faithful to pray in their local language.

Traditionalists, who are a small but very vocal minority in the 1.3 billion-member Church, rejected the New Mass, known as the Novus Ordo and entered general use in the early 1970s. Many have missed the sense of mystery and awe of the Latin rite and the centuries-old sacred music that accompanied it.

Former Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II had both eased restrictions on the Latin Mass in an olive branch to conservatives.

Reintroducing the restrictions in July, Francois said the leniency of his predecessors, while well-intentioned, had been “exploited” for ideological reasons.

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Reporting by Philip Pullella Editing by Frances Kerry

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