By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
On his way to Paris this morning, Pope Benedict XVI called fears his recent authorization for wider celebration of the old Latin Mass marks a rollback on reforms associated with the Second Vatican Council “absolutely unfounded.”
“There is no opposition at all between the liturgy approved by Vatican II and the liturgy celebrated according to the old rite,” the pope said.
Instead, the pope insisted that his 2007 ruling constituted an “act of tolerance” towards Catholic who feel attached to the rite of the Mass in use before Vatican II (1962-65).
The comment to journalists came in response to a question aboard the papal plane.
tDebate over Benedict XVI’s 2007 ruling on the Latin Mass has likely caused more ferment in France than virtually anywhere else in the Catholic world, in part because there’s a strong traditionalist element in French Catholicism that has long objected to the liturgical reforms associated with the council.
It was a French prelate, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who launched the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X that broke with Rome in 1988, and still today Lefebvre’s society has its strongest membership base in France.
Recently, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue, acknowledged that a slight uptick in priestly vocations in France is largely due to the impact of the traditionalists.
“Certainly, there are different accents” between the two rites of the Mass, Benedict said, but fundamentally they express the same faith. He also said that “development” in the liturgy is a natural feature of church life in every century.
The Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, had asked journalists travelling with the pope to submit questions in advance. He then read four in Benedict, all in French, and the pope responded in French. He spoke for roughly nine minutes.