You may have heard of or even attended the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), the Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962 which is in Latin. Following the reforms after the Second Vatican Council, the Church implemented a new Roman Missal in 1970, which is what is followed all over the world generally. The old Mass (TLM) in Latin was still allowed for those who didn’t want the new vernacular language Mass. The TLM had more prayers, chanting, rituals, incensing, communion on tongue only, women expected with veil on head, genuflections and other long-held practices – all of which are meant to bring about the sense of the mystery of the Real Presence, reverence to the sacredness of the heavenly liturgy and participation in the priestly sacrifice that Jesus Christ himself (the priest in persona Christi) is celebrating.
Those who followed the TLM felt that this Mass was the true liturgy and believed that a greater availability of this Mass could bring about a revival in the Church when more and more Catholics are leaving the Church. Others opposed this idea. In order to avoid a division, Pope Benedict XVI had given freedom for all priests to offer the TLM from 2013 onwards, hoping for unity and understanding. Last year the Vatican took a world-wide survey with all the Bishops to assess the situation in their own dioceses. The result made it clear that instead of the expected unity, the division was widening. The Pope writes:
“An opportunity offered by St. John Paul II and, with even greater magnanimity, by Benedict XVI, intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division. I am saddened that the celebration of the extraordinary form is now characterized by a rejection of the Second Vatican Council and its liturgical reforms. To doubt the Council is to doubt the Holy Spirit himself who guides the Church.”
Therefore a week ago, on July 16, Pope Francis issued a “motu proprio” (an edict by the Pope personally) limiting henceforth the use of the TLM. Explaining his decision, Pope Francis wrote: “In defense of the unity of the Body of Christ, I am constrained to revoke the faculty granted by my Predecessors. The distorted use that has been made of this faculty is contrary to the intentions that led to granting the freedom to celebrate the Mass with the Missale Romanum [Roman Missal] of 1962.”
This decision is very disappointing and upsetting to the adherents of the TLM. You will hear many comments of disagreement on this decision even from some bishops and cardinals. The context I explained above should help you judge for yourself as to why Pope Francis made this decision to stem the tide of division. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide the Church towards greater unity and grace.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal