Pope prepares to lift restrictions on Tridentine Mass
BY SIMON CALDWELL
THE POPE might soon allow the world's Catholic priests the right to celebrate the old rite Latin Mass on Sundays and holy days without the permission of their bishops, according to sources close to the Vatican.
John Paul II is understood to be ready to grant a "universal indult" by the end of the year to permit all priests to choose freely between the celebration of Mass in the weaned Tridentine rite used up to 1962 — before the disciplinary reforms of the Second Vatican Council — and the novus ordo Mass used after 1970.
It will mean that a priest who wants to celebrate old rite Masses will no longer need to apply for an indult to Ecclesia Dei, a pontifical commission set up to study the implications of the Lefebvrist schism, after first gaining permission from his bishop.
The indult may be announced as part of the publication of forthcoming juridical notes on Ecclesia de Eucharistia, the new encyclical on the Eucharist, published on Holy Thursday, in which the Pope affirmed the Church's traditional teaching of the sacrificial nature of the Mass.
It might also be announced at the Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome on May 24. when Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the Prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy and the president of Ecclesia Dei, becomes the first cardinal prefect to celebrate an old rite Mass in a main Roman basilica for 30 years. Organised by the Latin Mass movement, Una Voce, the event is one of many indications that Rome is dropping restrictions on the celebration of the old rite.
Last month, the Holy Father, who celebrated a Tridentine Mass last summer, published a command called Rescriptum ex Audientia to authorise the celebration of the old rite Mass in St Peter's Basilica, Rome, by any priest who possessed an indult.
The Vatican also asked the Scottish bishops, ahead of their five-yearly ad liminu visit to Rome in March, to reveal what provisions they made for the celebration of the old rite Mass in their dioceses. Since the meeting, the Scottish bishops have stepped up their provision from just four a year in the whole of the country to at least one a month in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The same requests have been made in a questionnaire to the English and Welsh bishops, whose next ad limina visit to Rome will take place in the autumn. The bishops have invited the Latin Mass Society (LMS), set up to promote the practice of the old rite, to submit a report on the provision of the Tridentine Mass ahead of their low week meeting in London this week when they were scheduled to discuss the issue.
John Medlin, LMS development officer, confirmed that a "full document" had been circu
lated to the bishops but refused to discuss its contents.
But Francis Carey, LMS treasurer, said: "We are approaching a critical point in the process to reembed the traditional rite and sacraments in the centre of the Church's life, something for which a generation of traditional Catholics has prayed. I am looking forward to the future months with great confidence."
As a result of the efforts of the LMS, the old rite Mass is celebrated with varying frequency in most dioceses of the country, mostly in the archdioceses of Westminster, Southwark and Birmingham and the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
The LMS says it is acting in accordance with the wishes of the Holy Father, who published a motu proprio, Ecclesia Dei, in 1988 calling for the bishops of the world to be generous in their provision of the old rite.
The Pope was distressed that Swiss Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who rejected the reforms of the 1960s as "Marxist" and "neoProtestant", incurred excommunication that year after he ordained four bishops against the wishes of Rome.
About 400 priests followed Lefebvre out of full communion with the Church to form the Society of St Pius X. The Pope, who has actively sought the unity of the whole Church during his pontificate, remains keen to heal the schism.
Continued on Page Three