03 December 2021, The Tablet

Archbishop sanctions 'Low Mass' at Ledbury

Archbishop sanctions 'Low Mass' at Ledbury

A sacramentary on the altar during a traditional Tridentine Mass.
CNS photo/Gregory A Shemitz

The Archbishop of Cardiff, George Stack, has granted permission for Mass in the Tridentine rite to continue to be celebrated weekly at the parish of Ledbury in Herefordshire. However, he has decided this should be a Low Mass, without the accompaniment of a full-blown choir. 

Most Holy Trinity in Ledbury, Herefordshire, in the Archdiocese of Cardiff, reopened for public worship in August 2020 as did other churches in England and Wales, but the weekly order of services had changed. The main parish Sunday Mass, previously held at 10.30 with a lay choir, extraordinary ministers, and a rota of readers, had been moved to 9.30, and would be a “bare-bones” liturgy, with no choir or music. The pre-Vatican Council “Extraordinary Form” Mass, which before the lockdown had been celebrated at 9 a.m one Sunday in the month, was now to be celebrated several times a week and every Sunday at 11.30 am, complete with a schola. The parish was to be the base of the Worcestershire branch of Latin Mass Society.  

In a Tablet feature in September, Austen Ivereigh claimed that the new arrangements had led to a divide between Ledbury’s parishioners, unhappy at what they saw as the downgrading of the Mass in the Ordinary Form, and visitors drawn to the celebrations of the Tridentine Rite, causing distress, acrimony and, according to some critics, the departure of many local Catholics. A meeting of Archbishop Stack with parishioners on 26 September led to the re-establishment of a Parish Advisory Council and the authorisation of a ballot on a preferred time for Sunday Mass.

Archbishop of Cardiff George Stack told The Tablet: “I have given permission for Mass in the Extraordinary Rite to be celebrated at Ledbury for the foreseeable future. The decision that this should be a ‘Low Mass’ is to ensure that both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form of the Mass should be ‘mutually enriching’ and eventually converge into one Form of celebration. This is my understanding of Traditionis Custodes. I do not know what provisions are being made in other dioceses.”

Joseph Shaw of the Latin Mass Society criticised the Archbishop’s decision to limit the liturgy as “tragic” and pointed to “stories of conversions and reversions associated with the beauty of this liturgy” as evidence of the tangible contribution the Traditional Latin Mass made to the “spiritual experience of many Catholics”.

Some of the parishioners who had criticised the perceived marginalisation of the Novus Ordo were also dissatisfied. Bernadette Eakin joined Shaw in pointing to the explicit endorsement of music at Mass by the Second Vatican Council. She told The Tablet: “Clericalism has had a disproportionate say in all of this. It is the laity, as usual, who have lost out."


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