Resigned Cardinal Joins Landmark Latin Mass: Liturgy at Papal Basilica Seen as Vatican Gesture of Reconciliation with Catholic Traditionalists. (World)

By Allen, John, L., Jr. | National Catholic Reporter, June 6, 2003 | Go to article overview

Resigned Cardinal Joins Landmark Latin Mass: Liturgy at Papal Basilica Seen as Vatican Gesture of Reconciliation with Catholic Traditionalists. (World)


Allen, John, L., Jr., National Catholic Reporter


In his highest-profile return to the public stage since his Dec. 13 resignation, Cardinal Bernard Law took part in a much-anticipated Mass May 24 in Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major.

The occasion was equally rare: the first Mass celebrated in Latin, according to the rite in use prior to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), by a cardinal in a major papal basilica since 1970.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, a Colombian who heads the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy, said the Mass. Law was one of five other cardinals dressed in crimson liturgical vestments, including a traditional biretta, and seated in the front row.

Another American cardinal and a good friend of Law, William Baum, former archbishop of Washington, was also in attendance.

Law told NCR before the Mass that he was in Rome for meetings of two Vatican congregations of which he is a member. (His Dec. 13 resignation was as archbishop of Boston, and he remains a member in good standing of seven congregations and two councils.)

After the Mass, Law brushed reporters aside, saying only, "I thought it was a very moving Mass." Asked if he could comment on his post-resignation situation, he said, "I really haven't been doing that."

The Latin Mass, celebrated according to a rite codified by the mid-16th-century Council of Trent, was replaced in the Catholic church in 1969 with the so-called "new Mass," which is celebrated in vernacular languages.

In the years since, a determined movement of liturgical traditionalists has clamored for the reinstatement of the "old Mass." In 1988, French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre led his St. Pius X movement, made up of devotees of the old Mass, into a formal break with Rome when he ordained four bishops without the pope's permission.

The old Mass is sometimes called the "Tridentine rite," in reference to the Council of Trent, or "the Mass of Pius V" in memory of the pope who signed Trent's decrees into law. The remains of Pius V are preserved in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

The May 24 liturgy was seen as a major gesture of reconciliation with Catholic traditionalists on the part of the Vatican. In his homily, Castrillon confirmed the value of the preconciliar Mass, while also insisting that legitimacy of the reforms prompted by Vatican II cannot be called into question.

"The so-called rite of St. Pius V cannot be considered extinct, and the authority of the Holy Father has expressed his benevolent welcome toward the faithful who, although recognizing the legitimacy of the rite renewed according to the indications of Vatican II, remain attached to the preceding rite and find in it valid spiritual nourishment in the path of sanctification," Castrillon said. …

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