11-October-2006 -- Catholic World News Feature Story |

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Vatican, Oct. 11 (CWNews.com) - Pope Benedict XVI is preparing to release a motu proprio extending permission for priests to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass, Vatican sources have confirmed.

The new papal document-- for which a publication date has not yet been set-- would give all priests permission to celebrate the Mass of St. Pius V. This permission, a "universal indult," would replace the existing indult that dates back to 1988, when Ecclesia Dei authorized use of the Tridentine rite until more restricted conditions, requiring the permission of the local bishop.

Pope Benedict has long favored moves to accommodate traditionalist Catholics, and to integrate the Tridentine rite into the regular liturgical life of the Church. The motu proprio that he has prepared-- which, according to informed sources, is now in final form-- addresses other liturgical questions as well as the issue of the traditional Mass.

Vatican sources say that the papal document affirms the principle that there is only one liturgical rite for the Latin Church. But this rite has two forms: the "ordinary" liturgy (the Novus Ordo, celebrated in the vernacular language) and the "extraordinary" (the Tridentine rite, in Latin). These two forms have equal rights, the text indicates, and bishops are strongly encouraged to allow free use of both forms.

Pope Benedict is reportedly waiting for the best moment to release the new document, which is currently circulating among Vatican dicasteries. Speculation in Rome is that the indult will be announced at the same time that the Pope releases his apostolic exhortation concluding the Synod on the Eucharist. That document is expected soon, perhaps in November.

There is significant opposition to the indult among Vatican officials, and the papal text has been the subject of serious debate and criticism. But Pope Benedict has made it clear-- notably in his meeting with the College of Cardinals in March-- that he will move forward with efforts to accommodate traditionalists.

In 1988, with his own motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, Pope John Paul II allowed the celebration of the old Mass in parish settings, provided that the local bishop gave his approval. The Ecclesia Dei commission was created to supervise implementation of that policy. Despite the urging of Pope John Paul for a "broad and generous" use of the indult, many bishops have been reluctant to allow the traditional Mass, or have severely restricted its use.

The papal document is likely to take the form of an apostolic letter, with the added status of a motu proprio-- a document that carries the force of canon law. The document has been reviewed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the president of the Ecclesia Dei commission, as well as the Pope; it is now in at least its third draft.

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