PARIS (Reuters) - It isn't official. It
may not even happen. But reports that Pope Benedict
could soon revive the old Latin mass are stoking heated
debates among European Catholics with some fearing this
will turn the clock back.
uproar is loudest in France, where clergy and laity are
ringing alarm bells against bringing back the old
Church leaders in Belgium and Germany
have also grumbled, saying demand for the old Tridentine
mass in Latin was minimal and warning the
traditionalists could use it as a wedge to smuggle more
divisive issues into the world's largest church.
"The (Tridentine Latin) rite is only
the locomotive -- the issue is the carriages that are
pulled behind it," Brussels Cardinal Godfried Danneels
said last week. "Behind this locomotive are carriages
that I don't want."
These rumblings hint that Benedict
might alienate many mainstream Catholics if he opts for
a deal to heal an 18-year schism with the Society of
Saint Pius X, a Swiss-based group that rejects the
landmark Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
"We risk creating a front of sadness,
discouragement and disappointment with the Holy See,"
said Toulouse Archbishop Robert Le Gall, using the
Vatican's official name. "The liturgy is just the tip of
SIGN OF STEP BACK
The Tridentine mass is seen as a
symbol of rejecting modernizing reforms such as more
participation by the faithful, respect for Judaism and
cooperation with Protestants.
Most of the world's 1.1 billion Roman
Catholics attend Sunday or daily mass in their own
language rather than Latin which Vatican II sidelined.
Many agree with the respect for other religions that
Vatican II made official Church policy.
Priests can still say mass in Latin.
All they need is permission from their bishop.
But in fact, few Latin masses are said
and few faithful turn out for them, the German bishops
conference noted last month after conducting an internal
study. "We could not see any growth in interest in it,
as some have asserted," they added.
The Society of Saint Pius X, which has
about 1 million followers worldwide and is especially
strong in France, does not just champion the solemn old
Latin mass but flatly rejects what founder, late French
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, called "neo-modernist and
neo-Protestant" reforms of Vatican II.
Benedict shares their love of Latin
and the traditional liturgy and seems keen to bring them
back into the fold so they don't set up a permanent
parallel Catholic-like church.
Reports from the Vatican say he is
also ready to meet their main demands -- which are the
unconditional revival of the Tridentine mass as an
alternative to the modern liturgy and the lifting of
excommunications of the four SSPX bishops whom Lefebvre
consecrated in defiance of the Vatican in 1988.
A "LOYAL OPPOSITION"?
Paris Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois
bluntly spelled out the problems the traditionalists
would bring at a Paris conference attended by Cardinal
Francis Arinze, the Vatican official in charge of
liturgical issues such as how to say mass.
"Under the cover of a campaign to
defend a certain type of liturgy, there is a radical
critique of the Vatican Council, even outright rejection
of some of its declarations," he said.
"The rejection of new liturgies was
followed by public insults against the popes and crowned
by violent acts such as the forcible seizure of a parish
church in Paris and an aborted attempt by the same
people to repeat this," he said.
The warning from Vingt-Trois came
after a rising chorus of criticism from other clergy in
France, where the schism also has strong political
overtones because of the links some SSPX followers have
with royalist or far-right movements.
In an open letter, 30 young priests
said Benedict, 79, should encourage them "to work in the
world as it is ... rather than plunge us back into the
liturgical life of another age."
Besancon's Bishop Andre Lacrampe said
he would like to welcome traditionalists back into the
Church but not in a quick deal that avoided answering
the Vatican II question.
Danneels, an outspoken moderate in the
overwhelmingly conservative College of Cardinals, urged
the Vatican to be tough in its negotiations with SSPX.
"I've never heard their leaders say
even once that they accept Vatican II," he told the
Brussels daily De Standaard.
"I think the Vatican should demand