From left, former Chairman of the Vatican Bank Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and Cardinals Raymond Leo Burke, Gerhard Ludwig Mueller and Robert Sarah attend a conference on the Latin Mass at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Latin Mass fans celebrate 10-year anniversary, without pope

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Fans of the old Latin Mass have descended on Rome for their annual pilgrimage, facing indifference to their cause, if not outright resistance, from none other than Pope Francis.

Ten years after Pope Benedict XVI passed a law allowing greater use of the Latin Mass, Francis seems to be doing everything possible to roll that back or simply pretend it never happened.

In recent weeks, he has affirmed with "magisterial authority" that the reforms of the 1960s allowing for Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular rather than Latin were "irreversible." More recently, he gave local bishops conferences authority to oversee those translations, rather than the Vatican.

READ: Pope rails against attempts to restore old-style Catholic worship

The moves underscored that the age-old liturgy wars in the Catholic Church are very much alive and provide a microcosm of the battle lines that have been drawn between conservative, traditionalist Catholics and Francis ever since he declined to wear the traditional, ermine-trimmed red mozzetta cape for his first public appearance as pontiff in 2013.

The indifference seems reciprocal.

At a conference Thursday (Sept. 14) marking the 10th anniversary of Benedict's decree liberalizing use of the Latin Mass, the meeting organizer, the Rev. Vincenzo Nuara, didn't even mention Francis in his opening remarks. The current pope was mentioned in passing by the second speaker and ignored entirely by the third.

The front-row participants honoring retired Pope Benedict and his 2007 decree were also telling: Cardinal Raymond Burke, a leading critic of the current pope whom Francis removed as the Vatican's supreme court judge in 2014; Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, recently axed by Francis as the Vatican's doctrine chief; and Cardinal Robert Sarah, appointed by Francis as head of the Vatican's liturgy office but effectively sidelined by his deputy.

In fact, it was Sarah's deputy, Archbishop Arthur Roche, who signed the explanatory note to Francis' new law allowing bishops conferences, rather than Sarah's office, to have final say on Mass translations.

Despite the sense of belonging to a previous era, the conference was nevertheless upbeat about the future of the Latin Mass even under a pope who has openly questioned why any young person would seek out the old rite and disparaged traditionalists as rigid and insecure navel-gazers.

Monsignor Guido Pozzo, in charge of negotiations with breakaway traditionalist groups, gave encouraging statistics about the increase in the number of Latin Masses being celebrated each Sunday around the world, with notable increases in the U.S., France and elsewhere in western Europe.

"The old liturgy must not be interpreted as a threat to the unity of church, but rather a gift," he said. He called for it to continue to be spread "without ideological interference from any part."

The program for the 10-year anniversary pilgrimage included vespers celebrated by Benedict's longtime secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein; a religious procession led through the streets of Rome; and multiple Masses. Conspicuously absent from the four-day program was an audience with Francis.

The current pope, though, let his thoughts be known when he delivered a recent speech to an Italian liturgical society. He said there was no need to rethink the decisions that led to the liturgy reforms from the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that modernized the Catholic Church

"We can affirm with security and magisterial authority that the liturgical reforms are irreversible," he said.

Nuara, the conference organizer, denied sensing any resistance to traditionalists from Francis, saying in an interview that the current pope "is a respectful man, so he recognizes all the good that the old liturgy has given the church."

"We are also absolutely respectful of Pope Francis," he added.


  1. Typical gross mendacity of the US media: “ever since he declined to wear the traditional, ermine-trimmed red mozzetta cape for his first public appearance as pontiff in 2013.” 1. That’s not what pope’s wear for their first public appearance. 2. Even if it were, that is certainly not an objection anyone has voiced about this pontiff. Here’s their problem:

    Pope Francis accused bishops and cardinals who disagree with him of “ legalism,” “closed hearts,” “blinkered viewpoints,” judging “sometimes with superiority and superficiality,” lacking “understanding,” unable to “discern,” cowardice in “burying their heads in the sand,’ “a nasty spirit in order to sow division,” and psychologically “born from something missing, from trying to hide one’s own sad dissatisfaction behind a kind of armor.” He warns that they are a “cancer of the Church” in pursuit of glory rooted in “the logic of ambition and power.”

    Pope Francis appointed Msgr. Pozzo to negotiate with the Society of St. Pius X, an anti-Semitic “breakaway traditionalist groups,” The pope said he recognizes as valid their confessions and marriages and has offered them the same status as Opus Dei i.e. to be free of any hierarchical authority save his own if they would rejoin the Church.

  2. The traditionalists certainly have seen Francis’s avoidance of many ceremonial trappings of the papacy as an affront. It is a symbol to them that he’s not faithful to the church. Still, you’re right, it doesn’t appear that the mozzetta is something specifically you must wear when becoming Pope. Francis did not wear this, instead he wore the similar but more quotidian pellegrina (open in the front, as opposed to the mozzetta). In any event, the red velvet/white ermine mozzetta, re-popularized by traditionalist hero Benedict, has once again fallen into disfavor by Francis.
    Also, is Francis’s position on the SSPX different than Benedict’s?

  3. I check several traditionalist websites everyday and follow the comments. I’d like to see verification that your first sentence is factual.
    Benedict stopped negotiating with SSPX when they refused to accept Nostra Aetate and other VatII documents. Last summer, Pope Francis met with Fellay in private. An accord was reached by requiring that the SSPX agree only to “a profession of faith, recognition of the sacraments and the papal primacy.” Pozzo explained that the Council documents are “not definitive statements” but “rather, suggestions, instructions, or orientational guidelines for pastoral practice.”

  4. This is really very bad. The internal civil war is really quite dangerous. Two camps staring each other down. What a mess.

  5. You may be right about the traditionalists specifically protesting Francis’s avoidance of papal regalia. I may be confusing Cardinal Burke’s well-known love for such things — I’ve found several images of him with courtiers carrying his very, very long red cape — with his well-known distaste for Francis. Put it this way, I doubt they find it to be a plus.
    Thanks for the SSPX info. My view about that group has always been that you give them an inch, they take a mile. Why the Church is so intent on reconciling with them is beyond me.

  6. Yes, Burke appears as a pompous buffoon, but other than wearing traditional vestments at Mass, I haven’t seen a single photo of a traditionalist priest or prelate wearing any sort of finery. Pope Francis, not “the Church,” is intent on reconciling with the SSPX.

  7. Didn’t Benedict make overtures toward reconciling with the SSPX that eventually stalled bc of their refusal to accept V2?

  8. Yes. Benedict stopped negotiating with SSPX when they refused to accept Nostra Aetate and other VatII documents.

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