The following was reported recently on the Catholic News Service: Pope Benedict XVI is preparing to expand permission to use the Tridentine Mass, the pre-Vatican II rite favored by traditionalist groups, said an informed Vatican source.
The source said the new permission, or indult, was a papal decision, but was being done in cooperation with agencies of the Roman Curia. He would not elaborate on the extent of the indult, when it would be established or how it would work.
The Tridentine rite is currently available to groups of Catholics who ask and receive permission for its use from their local bishops. The old rite is celebrated in Latin and follows the Roman Missal of 1962, which was replaced in 1969 with the new Roman Missal.
Among those who have strongly pushed for wider use of the Tridentine rite are the followers of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who was excommunicated in 1988.
Canadian Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg, Manitoba, told Catholic News Service Oct. 10 that Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, head of the Congregation for Clergy, had spoken briefly to Canadian bishops about the expected step.
"It sounded to me like it was a sort of concession somebody has made," the archbishop said.
Archbishop Weisgerber said the new indult was apparently motivated by a desire to bring comfort to older people who may miss the old rite. But in his archdiocese, he said, the few people asking for it are "young people who never experienced it."
Pope Benedict has made new efforts to reconcile with leaders of the Lefebvrite religious order, the Society of St. Pius X. In a meeting last year with the pope, Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the society, asked for the restoration of the Tridentine rite as a sign of good will.
Bishop Fellay later told CNS that he thought the Vatican should simply declare that the Tridentine rite can be used freely because it was never really abrogated. Bishop Fellay also said wider use of the Tridentine Mass would not solve all the problems the Lefebvrites have with the Second Vatican Council.
The pope discussed potential reconciliation terms with the Lefebvrites in two meetings earlier this year, one with heads of Vatican curial offices and one with the world's cardinals. In both meetings, sources said, there were mixed views on wider use of the Tridentine Mass.
In 1984, Pope John Paul II first made it possible for groups of the faithful to worship according to the old rite under certain conditions. In 1991, the Vatican established more liberal guidelines, encouraging bishops to grant permission and retaining just one basic condition: that those seeking the old Mass form must also accept the validity of the new rite.
Pope Benedict has long questioned the wisdom of the liturgical changes made after the Second Vatican Council. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was sometimes outspoken about what he considered the dismantling of the church's liturgical tradition.
"I was dismayed by the ban on the old missal, since such a development had never been seen in the history of liturgy. The impression was given that this was completely normal," he wrote in a 1997 book.
In the same book, he said it was important for the faithful to understand that for liturgy and other areas, Vatican II was not a break but a "developing moment."