Catholic World News News Feature
Vatican official foresees broader use of Latin Mass September 26, 2005
An influential Vatican official believes that Pope Benedict XVI could soon expand permission for priests throughout the world to celebrate Mass using the Tridentine rite.
However, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez cautions that serious doctrinal issues, as well as liturgical questions, must be resolved before the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) can be fully reconciled with the Holy See.
Cardinal Medina, the former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, is a member of the Ecclesia Dei commission, set up by Pope John Paul II to serve the needs of Catholics who cling to the Latin Mass. In an interview with the I Media news service, the Chilean-born prelate said that the Pope could act soon to liberalize Church regulations, allowing all priests to use the Tridentine rite.
Questioned about the outcome of the Pope's August 29 meeting with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the SSPX, Cardinal Medina observed that the meeting was preceded by "many other contacts" between Vatican officials and representatives of the Lefebvrist group. Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, had met repeatedly with Bishop Fellay, he said. And the Chilean prelate added that he, too, had met with the traditionalist leader during his term as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Consequently, the cardinal said, "you could not say that the meeting with the Holy Father was unexpected." He added that SSPX leaders are well aware that Pope Benedict "is concerned about full communion among all Catholics-- all Christians-- and particularly those who uphold the decisions and positions of Archbishop Lefebvre."
Reconciliation between the Vatican and the breakaway traditionalist group, the cardinal continued, would require "addressing a list of doctrinal difficulties." He said that a working group could be set up to discuss those problems.
"But within the Society [SSPX], there are different currents," Cardinal Medina observed. While some members of the traditionalist group are "inflexible," others are more inclined toward dialogue with Rome, he said. He said that when some traditionalists refer to the Novus Ordo Mass as "heretical" or "invalid," they create "an extremely difficult situation." The Vatican will insist that SSPX members acknowledge the validity of the post-conciliar Mass, he said; they will also be required to accept the teachings of Vatican II.
After his meeting with Pope Benedict, Bishop Fellay suggested that a first step toward reconciliation could be a Vatican recognition of the right for all priests to celebrate the Tridentine-rite Mass, using the liturgical form codified by Pope Pius V after the Council of Trent. Cardinal Medina saw "no difficulty" in expanding access to the Latin Mass. But he reiterated that such a step "would not resolve the fundamental problems with the SSPX."
Questioned on whether Vatican II intended to abolish the Tridentine rite, Cardinal Medina said that the arguments were inconclusive on that point. However, he said, each rite is valid, and "the missal of St. Paul V and that of Paul VI are both perfectly orthodox." He observed that each ritual appeals to "different sensibilities," and noted that the Offertory prayers of the old rite are particularly useful in their emphasis on "the sacrifical character of the Mass: an essential aspect of the Eucharistic celebration." The restoration of universal permission to use the Tridentine Mass would involve canonical and liturgical questions, but no major theological concerns, the cardinal said. "So I hope that, little by little, the possibility of celebrating the old form of the Roman rite will be opened," he said.
As a member of the Ecclesia Dei commission, Cardinal Medina reported, he is sometimes asked to celebrate a Tridentine-rite Mass. When he receives such a request, he said, "I do it, without asking anyone's permission."