29 July 2021, The Tablet

View from Rome

View from Rome

Although Pope Francis’ tough new rules on celebrations of the trad­itional Latin Mass came as a surprise, it’s likely he had been considering an intervention for some time.

Right from the start of his pontificate, Francis has sent a strong message on the liturgy. While previous popes celebrated a daily Mass in their private chapel in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, his liturgies take place in the much larger chapel in his home, the Casa Santa Marta guest house. These daily Masses, in the chapel dedicated to the Holy Spirit, are attended by visiting clergy, Vatican workers, people from parishes in the Diocese of Rome and other guests. The Pope faces the people during the celebration. Although he may have said little directly about the liturgy in the early years of his papacy, Francis did make a landmark speech in 2017 describing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council as “irreversible”.

So why did the Pope wait until now to issue his ruling restricting the use of the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Rite? While his decision was informed by a worldwide survey of bishops last year on how his predecessor Benedict’s loosening of the restrictions on the use of the old form of the Roman Rite was being applied, it also took place because of a shift in the tectonic plates at the Vatican. One of these is the recent appointment of a new reform-minded leadership team at the Vatican’s liturgy office, with Archbishop Arthur Roche as prefect. The former Bishop of Leeds, who has worked closely with Francis on liturgical matters, is committed to implementing the reforms of Vatican II. In a 19 February 2020 speech at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce, Rome, he described this work as “our ecclesial duty”.

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