Saturday, June 30, 2007

More Catholic churches to celebrate Latin mass

Pope Benedict XVI is going ahead with his plan to allow more churches to use the old Latin mass, a concession to traditionalists that has caused concern among those fearing a rollback of one of the Vatican's key liberalizing reforms.

The pope explained his plans to a group of prelates from Europe and the United States, the Vatican said Thursday, in what was considered an unusual meeting underlining the resistance created by his proposal.

The statement said the meeting was called to ''illustrate the content and the spirit'' of the document, which will be sent to all bishops, accompanied by a personal letter from the pope, and be made public in the next few days.

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The decision follows months of debate. Some cardinals, bishops and Jews have opposed any change, voicing complaints about everything from the text of the old mass to concerns that the move will lead to further changes to the reforms approved by 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council.

The 16th-century Tridentine mass was sidelined by the so-called new mass that followed the council. The reforms called for mass to be said in local languages, for the priest to face the congregation and not the altar with his back to worshippers and for the use of lay readers.

To celebrate the old Latin mass now, a priest must obtain permission from the local bishop.

Roman Catholic Church leaders are anxiously awaiting the details of Benedict's decision, to see how far he will go in easing that rule.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, told reporters bishops will still have a ''central role'' -- but he didn't elaborate.

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