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Pope's plan to revive old Mass causes stir

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 27, 2007


VATICAN CITY - It was one of the most radical reforms to emerge from the Second Vatican Council. The Mass, root of Roman Catholic worship, would be celebrated in the local language and not in Latin.

Now, little more than a generation later, Pope Benedict XVI is poised to revive the 16th-century Tridentine Mass.

In doing so, he will be overriding objections from some cardinals, bishops and Jews - whose complaints range from the text of the old Mass to the symbolic sweeping aside of the council's work from 1962 to 1965. Many in the church regard Vatican II as a moment of badly needed reform and a new beginning.

A Vatican official, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, confirmed earlier this month that Benedict would soon relax the restrictions on celebrating the Tridentine Mass because of a "new and renewed interest" in the celebration.

In recent decades, priests could only celebrate the Tridentine Mass with permission from their bishop. Church leaders are anxiously awaiting Benedict's decision, to see how far he will go in easing that rule.

Castrillon Hoyos denied the move represented a "step backward" Rather, it was an attempt to give the faithful greater access to a "treasure" of the church, he said.

Benedict also was acting, Castrillon Hoyos told bishops in Brazil, to reach out to an ultratraditionalist and schismatic group, the Society of St. Pius X, and bring it back into the Vatican's fold.

The late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre founded the society in 1969 in Switzerland, opposed to Vatican II's reforms, particularly its liturgical reforms. The Vatican excommunicated Lefebvre in 1988 after he consecrated four bishops without Rome's consent. The bishops were excommunicated as well.

Benedict has been keen to reconcile with the group, which has demanded freer use of the old Mass as a precondition for normalizing relations.

But bishops in neighboring France, where Lefebvre's group is strong, have objected publicly to any liberalizing of the old rite, saying its broader use could lead to divisions within the church, and could imply a rejection of other Vatican II teachings.

Belgian Cardinal Godfried Daneels echoed that concern, saying that greater celebration of the Tridentine Mass could polarize the church and, depending on how the document is written, could lead to the "negation" of Vatican II reforms such as support for religious freedom.

Other concerns have come from groups involved in Christian-Jewish dialogue, because the Tridentine rite contains prayers that some non-Christians find offensive. By its very nature, the Tridentine liturgy predates the landmark documents from Vatican II on improving relations with Jews and people of other faiths.

Rabbi David Rosen, who is in charge of interfaith relations at the American Jewish Committee, said he wrote to several cardinals in March expressing concern about a prayer for the "unfaithful" in the Mass, as well a prayer used during the church's Holy Week liturgy which had contained references to "perfidious, " or faithless, Jews.

He was assured by Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is in charge of the Vatican's relations with Jews, that the Tridentine missal used now doesn't contain the reference to the "perfidious" Jew.

But in a letter, Kasper added: "I was unable to obtain a clear answer" concerning the prayer for the unfaithful.

Monsignor James Moroney, the liturgy expert at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he didn't think the move would have a terribly significant impact because it affects so few people.