Pope Francis restored restrictions on the old Latin Mass in order to curb what he sees as a source of division in the Catholic Church, thus reversing a landmark decision made by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
Back in 2007, in a landmark reform, Benedict, who was the Pope between 2005 and 2013, relaxed limits on the Latin Mass in order to achieve the same goal, namely, to boost the unity of the Catholic Church.
84-year-old Francis, however, explained he was moving to restrict the old Latin Mass precisely because it has emerged as a source of division within the church.
In particular, Benedict’s reform has been used by those Catholics who oppose the decisions of the Second Vatican Council from the 1960s, which carried out the modernization of the Catholic Church and its liturgy.
According to experts, Pope Francis’ move is the most screaming reversal of a policy introduced by a Pope’s predecessor, not to mention the fact that at the age of 94, Benedict is still alive and living in the Vatican.
That is why Francis’ move is considered highly extraordinary, and church observers believe that it will bring about greater hostility towards him on part of the right-wing in the Catholic Church.
In his newly issued law, Francis is requiring that bishops approve old Latin Mass (also known as the Tridentine Mass) celebrations and that new priests get explicit permission from their bishops in order to celebrate it.
What is more, bishops are now supposed to inspect whether believers currently attached to the old Mass, also accept Vatican II, which made it possible for Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular language instead of Latin.
If there are such groups sticking to the Old Latin Mass, they will not be using regular churches, instead, bishops are expected to find them alternative venues.
Pope Francis justified his decision by declaring that he was seeking to heal divisions and promote unity within the Catholic Church. He revealed that his move was partly based on a Vatican survey of all bishops around the globe.
While celebrations with the Latin Mass are allowed to continue, the measures that Francis put forth would restrict tangibly their spread.
Back in 2007, then Pope Benedict relaxed restrictions on the old Latin Mass, hoping that would be a means of reaching out to the movement for the Traditional Mass, more specifically, the Society of St. Pius.