THE LATIN Mass has definitely resurrected in spite of having its medium “dead” after Pope Benedict XVI allowed the clergy to celebrate it.

As of today, the Society of St. Pius X celebrates Latin Mass twice everyday in Our Lady of Victories Parish Church in New Manila, Quezon City. They also hold Masses in 17 other locations inside the Philippines.

For several decades now, the Society of St. Pius X is separated from the Catholic Church due to past conflicts with the Vatican which included the celebration of the Latin Mass. Last Jan. 21, the Vatican released a decree remitting the excommunication of four French bishops of the said organization in response to a letter sent last Dec. 15 by one of them, Bishop Bernard Fellay. He wrote, “we continue firmly resolute in our desire to remain Catholics and to put all our strength at the service of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church.”

The Pope deemed it significant to promote unity as a Papal duty. He quoted a passage from Luke, “you… strengthen your brothers” as stated in his letter addressed to the bishops regarding the remission of excommunication released last March 10.

As an initiative for reconciliation, Pope Benedict XVI released an Apostolic Letter in July 7, 2007, Summorum Pontificum that allows priests to celebrate the Latin Mass without asking permission from anyone.

According to the Supreme Pontiff, the two expressions of the Holy Mass will not lead to a division in the Church’s “Lex credendi” (Law of belief).

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His reason for issuing for the letter is the coming to “an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church.” The letter imposes an obligation on Christians “to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or attain it anew.”

In an interview with the Varsitarian, Fr. Isidro Rodriguez, Prefect of Discipline and Latin teacher at Immaculate Conception Seminary, said that there are two main points that justify Latin Masses.

Rodriguez explained that these celebrations connect Christians to the history of the Church, for it has been used for almost 15 centuries. Also, the use of Latin evokes a sense of mystery. Mystery is something that we cannot fully understand but is true, he added.

“Mystery is necessary in our faith, for God Himself is also mysterious,” Rodriguez said.

Latin Masses are classified into two. The Tridentine Mass, which derives its name from the Council of Trent in the 16th century and distinctive of Gregorian chants and silent Mass attendees, has the priest facing the altar while whispering the rites that are inaudible to the people. Meanwhile, the New Order of the Mass is like the usual ceremony today except that the language used is Latin.

Although the language used is Latin, the readings may be given in vernacular using editions recognized by the Apostolic See for both the Tridentine Mass and the New Order of the Mass.

In the Summorum Pontificum, there are guidelines regarding the celebration of the Latin Mass. First, “the pastor should accept the request of the faithful who wish to adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition. It may take place on working days, weekends and for special occasions such as marriages and funerals. Priests who shall celebrate the Mass must be qualified and not juridically impeded. For churches that are not parish or conventual churches, the Rector of the church shall grant the permission.”

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These questions also intensified since the Second Vatican Council had encouraged priests to hold ceremonies such as Masses in the vernacular instead of the then usual use of Latin language.

It must not also be neglected that the Second Vatican Council still made a provision stating that “the use of Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.”

After the Council, priests who intended to use Latin in Eucharistic celebrations consequently needed to secure permission from his bishop.

Beginning reconciliation

Aside from the mentioned importance of Latin Masses, it served as a bridge for further dialogue between the Church and its past partition.

In history, the implementation of the New Order of the Mass during the Second Vatican Council led to a division within the Church for some were not in favor of the changes made. One of them was the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who considered the revisions in the constitution of his own congregation un-Catholic and Modernist. He retired because of this.

Soon after his retirement, four French seminarians sought his advice on a seminary where they could finish their studies. According to them, they were persecuted for their observance to traditional doctrines. In 1970, he established the Society of St. Pius X, naming it after Pope Pius X who codified Catholic doctrines for conformity and was known to reject modern values. Its main seminary is in Ecône, Switzerland.

The conflict between Lefebvre and the Catholic Church continued to intensify. In 1975, Bishop Pierre Mamie, with the approval of other cardinals, withdrew the Society’s pia uno status (the first stage before a Catholic organization gains official recognition as a religious institute). From then on, the Society was not considered as organization within the Catholic Church.

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However, its operations continued with Lefebvre ordaining the four seminarians against the Vatican. He was then suspended from ordaining. His refusal to apologize to the Pope caused him his privilege to conduct any sacrament.

Lefebvre was getting old and thus he felt the need to ordain priests to episcopacy in order for the Society to continue. In 1988, he ordained the four priests against Canon Law, which states that consecration of a bishop requires Papal approval.

True enough, after almost three years after the Apostolic Letter’s release, the Vatican released a decree remitting the excommunication of the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X last Jan. 21.

However, the lifting of the excommunication isn’t the end but the beginning of a process of dialogue, said Pontifical Commission Ecclessia Dei member Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard as posted in Catholic News Service’s website.

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