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Catholic World News News Feature

French clerics oppose restoration of Latin Mass October 24, 2006

French clerics are leading the opposition to release of a papal document that would allow wider use of the traditional Latin Mass.

A group of 35 French bishops and priests have issued a statement urging Pope Benedict XVI not to issue the motu proprio that has been widely discussed in recent weeks. The clerics predict that by allowing broader use of the Tridentine rite, the papal document would "plunge us back into the liturgical life of another age."

Infocatholo, the news agency sponsored by the French bishops' conference, reports that the papal document has been edited and is ready for release. But the bishops' news agency says that there is strong opposition to the proposed move within the Roman Curia.

The opposition is particularly evident among French bishops, many of whom have given clear public indications of their hostility toward the papal initiative. Bishop Robert Le Gall of Toulouse told the daily La Croix that permission to use the Latin Mass would "create grave difficulties, especially for those who have remained loyal to Vatican II." Sounding the same theme, Bishop Andre Lacrampe of Besançon said that "one cannot erase Vatican II with a stroke of the pen."

Opponents of the Latin Mass have based their arguments on the premise that the Pope's proposal would be designed to encourage members of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) to return to communion with the Holy See. Bishop Claude Dagens of Angouleme told the weekly La Vie that a change in liturgical discipline would not achieve that result. He explained, "You can't pretend that Archbishop Lefebvre's break with the Church was caused only by the liturgy."

But other French bishops objected to use of the old liturgical rite by priests who have left the SSPX, to set up the new Institute of the Good Shepherd. Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris complained that the new Institute, with Vatican approval, has already begun work in the Paris archdiocese. And Bishop Michel Pansard of Chartres said that he was "astonished" to learn that the traditionalist group was opening a seminary without first consulting him.

Infocatho, the bishops' new agency, gave a clear indication of its own perspective in the news report on the French clerics' complaints. The adoption of a policy allowing free use of either the Tridentine liturgy or the post-conciliar Novus Ordo, Infocatho said, would divide the Church, because "Eucharistic bi-ritualism in the Latin Catholic Church contradicts what the Eucharist signifies."

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