Roma 24 maggio 2003

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24 maggio 2003 - Inside The Vatican

Latin Mass Celebrated in Rome

A Tridentine rite Latin Mass was celebrated in one of Rome's major basilicas today for the first time in decades. A turning point for the Church's liturgy? 

By:  Robert Moynihan 

ROME, May 24, 2003 -- In what may in future be seen as an important turning point in the history of the Catholic Church's liturgy and worship, today, for the first time in decades, a traditional Latin Mass was celebrated in a major Roman basilica. 

The solemn 2-hour liturgy, which began in the basilica of St. Mary Major with a rosary at 3:30 p.m. and ended a little before 6 p.m., moved some of the approximately 2,000 present to tears. 

Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, celebrated the Mass according to the pre-Vatican II 1962 missal -- also called the Mass of St. Pius V or the Tridentine Mass -- with Pope John Paul II's explicit permission and blessing. 

"The rite of St. Pius V cannot be considered extinct," Castrillon Hoyos said in his homily, which was the only part of the Mass not in Latin (he spoke in Italian). 

At communion, those present were instructed to receive the host according to the traditional rite, kneeling and on the tongue, not in the hand. Castrillon Hoyos celebrated the Mass turned toward the people, facing east. 

The "Latin Mass" is not entirely in Latin; it contains Greek phrases ("Kyrie eleison" or "Lord, have mercy") and Aramaic words ("Amen," "Alleluia") which would have been spoken by Jesus himself. It thus represents a fusion of the liturgies of the primitive Christian communities in the Greco-Roman world of antiquity. 

Many present commented on the solemnity with the which the celebration was conducted, calling it "beautiful" and "inspiring." 

Marygold Turner, from Kent, England, said: "This Mass is very, very significant. The Tridentine Mass has been banned in England. This is the rapprochement (between Rome and those who desire the restoration of the old Mass) the Pope calls for. The Pope wants it. Our Lady wants it." 

But one Irish Catholic tourist, present by chance at the Mass, expressed a view shared by many "progressives" in the Church. He said he feared the Mass represented a Roman shift toward a more "clerical" and "rigid" Church. "I'm worried that this is a step backwards," he said. 

Today's Mass came amid other signs that Rome will soon be pressing for wider celebration of the "old Mass" around the world. Indeed, just yesterday, a group of Catholics from England received permission to celebrate Mass according to the old rite in the Hungarian chapel in the grotto beneath the main altar in St. Peter's Basilica itself. The Mass was celebrated at 7:45 a.m. on May 23 and attended by about 25 people associated with the Latin Mass society in Great Britain. And two weeks ago, as we reported at the time, Cardinal Francis Arinze revealed to "Inside the Vatican" that Rome expects to publish a document this fall mandating the celebration of the old Latin Mass in parishes around the world wherever groups of parishioners petition their bishop to allow it. 

At today's Mass, American Cardinal Bernard Law, who has kept mostly out of sight since resigning six months ago over US Catholic Church pedophile scandal allegations, resurfaced in the front row of those attending. 

After the Mass ended, the former archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts declined to discuss the scandal in which his old archdiocese faces legal suits from hundreds of alleged victims. "I have come to Rome for meetings," Law told reporters. 

It was believed to be the first time that Law has been in Rome since December 14, the day after he resigned over the scandal that first erupted in January 2002. 

Law said he had found the old-style Latin Mass "very moving." 

Also present were cardinals Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez of Chile, Alfons Maria Stickler of Austria, Armand Gaetan Razafindratandra of Madagascar, and William Baum, an American cardinal who lives in Rome. 

Though it was the first time this Pope had allowed the old Mass to be celebrated in a major Roman basilica, it is unclear if the celebration will spark any movement toward a reconciliation between Rome and the followers of the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. 

Lefebvre opposed many of the liturgical and doctrinal changes that came after the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council. The Vatican excommunicated Lefebvre for ordaining bishops without papal permission in 1988. He died in 1991, leaving a movement of several hundred thousand whose leaders still reject some Vatican policies. 

But no senior leaders of the Lefebvrist movement were present at today's Mass. 


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