Pope Francis Renews Restrictions on Old Latin Mass, Reversing Benedict XVI’s Decision

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, left, welcomes Pope Francis as they exchange Christmas greetings at the Vatican on Dec. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, left, welcomes Pope Francis as they exchange Christmas greetings at the Vatican on Dec. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis on Friday directly reversed a signature liturgical decision of Pope Benedict XVI, moving to strongly limit use of the old Latin Mass and spurring anger from church traditionalists.

The pope, whose tenure has been characterized by deep church divisions and conservative opposition, said in a letter that his new ruling was a step “in defense of the unity of the Body of Christ.” He suggested that those who favored the old Latin Mass had been exploiting the rite as a way to “reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church.”

Francis’s move will not change church services for the majority of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, who are largely familiar with the modern Mass — shaped amid church reforms of the 1960s — that is recited in the local language, not Latin.

But many traditionalists remain champions of the old Latin Mass, a liturgy that dates back more than a millennium and has become a central point in church divisions in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which ended in 1965.

Francis’s decision was remarkable, if only because he was taking a major step into the church’s liturgical wars and essentially erasing the decision of his conservative predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who continues to live inside the Vatican’s walls. In 2007, Benedict removed a rule requiring a local bishop’s permission to celebrate the old Latin Mass. Francis not only reinstated that rule but added other restrictions.

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Source: Chico Harlan, the Washington Post