By Antoine Lokongo
A BISHOP called on the Church this week to deepen its understanding of the liturgy through the study and celebration of the Tridentine Mass.
Auxiliary Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue, of Westminster made the appeal on Saturday at the end of a Pontifical High Mass, celebrated according to the 1962 Roman Missal, Praising the Old Mass's "unifying role" in the Church, he asked Catholics to find the "same unity" in the new, vernacular Mass.
"The Tridentine Rite which we have just celebrated played a wonderful unifying role in the history of the Church since the 16th Century," the bishop said. "It is important that we pray it, study it, and learn from it. Today, under the Spirit, we must also search and find that same unity in the restored liturgy after the recent Vatican Council, and the Tridentine Liturgy can help us in that task of understanding more deeply and more fully the restored liturgy."
The bishop, who was speaking at St James, Spanish Place in London, added: "There must be no retreat from unity in all this endeavour."
The solemn high Mass was organised by the International Centre for Liturgical Studies (CIEL) UK, as a prelude to its annual conference which followed at the Salvation Army's Regent Hall.
Keynote speaker, Fr Ronald Creighton-Jobe of the London Oratory claimed the Church was facing a liturgical crisis.
"The Church as a human institution," he said, "was bound to have problems anyway. Nevertheless the Church as the body of Christ will always triumph over those problems."
CIEL UK President Nicole Hall said that the presence of so many young people at the Solemn High Mass indicated a desire for a more silent and prayerful celebration of Mass among young people.
"A lot of young people are searching for beauty, for a strong spiritual base and uplifting and contemplation, which the new rite cannot give them," she said.
Fr Christopher Basden of St Bedes Parish, Clapham, London, where the Latin Mass is celebrated on a daily basis, blamed plummeting Church attendance on Catholics adopting an
a la carte approach to Christianity.
"Before Vatican 11, churches were full. After Vatican II, they became more and more empty," he said.
Lord Gill, chairman of the Scottish Law Commission, claimed that the current "liturgical crisis" would only be overcome by rediscovering the value of the old Mass and criticised the restriction of its celebration in the dioceses of England and Wales.
Dr Sheridan Gilley, head of the department of theology at Durham University, argued that the Tridentine Mass was profoundly based on Holy Scripture.
"The old liturgy contains the full presentation of the Old and New Testament and is fully grounded in the tradition of the Church," he said.
The final speaker, Count Neri Capponi, canonical adviser to the Archdiocese of Florence, contrasted Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul ll's approach to the Old Rite.
"Paul VI probably did not wish to abolish the old Mass, but thought that it would slowly die of its own accord," he said.
"On the contrary, Pope John Paul II, by issuing The 1988 Mom Proprio Ecelesia Del, had a clear intent which was to make the old Mass freely available to anyone who preferred it.
"Unfortunately, there are a lot of restrictions added to the papal permission for bishops to grant their faithful special privileges.
"Nevertheless, those faithful who feel attached to some previous forms of liturgical rites have the right to demand it. It is a legitimate aspiration approved by the Pope in Ecelesia Dei," the canonist concluded.
The Old Rite Mass was codified by the Council of Trent in 1570. It was replaced by the vernacular Mass in 1970.