By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
The top Vatican official in charge of use of the Tridentine Mass has confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI “intends to extend to the entire church the possibility of celebrating the Mass and the sacraments according to the liturgical books promulgated by Pope John XXIII in 1962.” Those books contain the last approved version of the older "Latin Mass" celebrated prior to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), as well as rites for sacraments such as baptism and holy orders.
The remarks from Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, came in an address to the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The older Tridentine liturgy, according to Castrillón, “was never abolished,” and is today the object of both “new and renewed interest.” For these reasons, Castrillón said, the pope believes the time has come to facilitate wider access to this rite, noting that such a request was made by a commission of cardinals in 1986.
For some months now, speculation has swirled that Pope Benedict XVI is planning to extend wider permission for use of the older Mass, in the form of a document called a motu proprio, meaning “under his own authority.”
Castrillón’s speech at the CELAM meeting marks the first time the cardinal has publicly confirmed that such a move is imminent. Castrillón said that under the terms of the pope’s decision, the older liturgies will become “an extraordinary form of the one Roman rite.”
Castrillón did not provide additional details, such as how sweeping authorization to use the older liturgical books will be, nor whether individual bishops will still be able to place limits on their use, as is the case under current church law. Nor did Castrillón provide a specific date for when the pope’s decision will be released.
“This is a generous offering by the Vicar of Christ, who, as an expression of his pastoral will, wants to make available to the church all the treasures of the Latin liturgy, which, through the centuries, have nourished the spiritual life of so many generations of the Catholic faithful,” Castrillón said.
Castrillón also said that Benedict XVI wants the Ecclesia Dei Commission to become a permanent agency of the Roman Curia, with the purpose of conserving and maintaining the value of the older Latin liturgies.
At the same time, Castrillón said, “it’s important to affirm with total clarity that this is not a matter of going backwards, of returning to a time before the reform of 1970,” referring to the introduction of the new rite of Mass following Vatican II.
“The Holy Father wants to conserve the immense spiritual, cultural and aesthetic treasures connected to the older liturgy,” Castrillón said. “The recuperation of this richness,” he said, is united to “the no less precious gift of the current liturgy of the church.”
Castrillón went on to describe a series of communities already existing within the Catholic Church which celebrate Mass and the other sacraments according to the older rites, arguing that they illustrate the potential benefits to be gained from the pope’s decision.
The full text of Castrillón’s speech, in Spanish, can be found here: http://www.celam.info/content/view/277/332/