VATICAN CITY (CNS): A new Vatican instruction calls on local bishops and pastors to respond generously to Catholics who seek celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal, commonly known as the Tridentine rite.
The instruction, issued on May 13, said pastors should approve such Masses for groups of faithful, even when such groups are small or are formed of people from different parishes or dioceses.
These faithful cannot, however, contest the validity of the modern Mass or the authority of the pope.
“In deciding individual cases, the pastor or the rector, or the priest responsible for a church, is to be guided by his own prudence, motivated by pastoral zeal and a spirit of generous welcome,” it said.
The instruction said that, depending on pastoral needs, bishops should make sure seminarians are trained in celebrating the Tridentine rite, or “extraordinary form” of the Mass.
At the same time, the Vatican said the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei would be responsible for ensuring local Church officials were making the old rite available where warranted.
The instruction was issued by the Ecclesia Dei commission and approved by Pope Benedict XVI.
It came nearly four years after the Pope, in an apostolic letter titled “Summorum Pontificum”, relaxed restrictions on use of the Tridentine rite and said it should be made available in every parish where groups of the faithful desired it.
The new instruction said the Pope’s letter of 2007 had three main aims: to offer the old rite to all the faithful as a “precious treasure” to be preserved, to guarantee the use of the old rite “for all who ask for it” and to promote reconciliation in the Church.
It said local bishops have the responsibility to make sure liturgical matters in their dioceses were proceeding in agreement with the Pope’s expressed desires and in “peace and serenity”.
That includes taking measures to ensure respect for the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, it said.
The instruction said the faithful who ask for celebration of the Tridentine rite must not belong to or support groups that contest the pope or the validity of the Mass and sacraments as celebrated in the ordinary form.
Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said the language of that provision made it clear that “there should be no polemical or critical intent on the part of those people making the request”.
The instruction also addressed the question of who can celebrate the Tridentine rite.
The papal letter had said that priests who use the 1962 Roman Missal must be “qualified” to do so, but did not spell out requirements.
The new document said every Catholic priest in good standing was generally qualified to celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form.
A basic knowledge of Latin was needed, enough to pronounce the words correctly and understand their meaning, it said.
Fr Lombardi said learning, or relearning, the rubrics of the old rite could be “demanding”.
“For example, I wouldn’t have a problem with the Latin. But knowing all the rubrics that indicate the movements and particular gestures is much more complex,” he said.
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