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Mar 7 The New Rite

Today, Pope Paul VI celebrated the first Mass in Italian (rather than Latin) , facing the people, at the church of All Saints in the Via Appia Nuova, In Rome. Also, for the first time, the congregation was invited to receive communion standing. This would become known as the New Rite, or Novus Ordus in Latin. This was one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council but the liturgical reform has much deeper roots.

The Liturgical Movement of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, came out of the Benedictine monastery’s in France, particularly Solesmes Abbey in the West of France, famous as the source of the restoration of Benedictine monastic life in the country after the French Revolution. Their central goal was to encourage the laity to "live" the liturgy by attending services (not only Mass) often, understanding what they meant, and following the priest in heart and mind. A growing objective of the Movement was the introduction of the vernacular language and Pope Pius XII, had granted permission for the use of local languages in the renewal of baptismal promises in the Easter Vigil service.

During the Council, Bishops' Conferences from all over the world soon voted to expand the use of the vernacular, and requested confirmation of this choice from Rome. In response, from 1964 onwards, a series of documents from Rome granted general authorization for steadily greater proportions of the Mass to be said in the vernacular. However on 25 September 1969, two retired cardinals, Ottaviani and Bacci, wrote a Critical letter with which they sent Pope Paul VI with a text that had been prepared in the previous June by a group of twelve theologians under the direction of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre saying that on many points the New Mass had much to gladden the heart of even the most modernist Protestant. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, responded that the document contained many affirmations that were "superficial, exaggerated, inexact, emotional, and false". However, some of its observations were taken into account in preparing the definitive version of the new Order of the Mass. Archbishop Lefebvre founded the Society of Saint Pius X as a small community of seminarians in the village of Écône, Switzerland but five years he was ordered to disband the society, but ignored the order. In 1988, against the expressed prohibition of Pope John Paul II, he consecrated four bishops to continue his work and incurred automatic excommunication.

By the time the revised Missal was published in 1970, priests were no longer obliged to use Latin in any part of the Mass. Today, a very large majority of Masses are celebrated in the language of the people, though Latin is still used either occasionally or, in some places, on a regular basis. This has rumbled on as a tension within the church, and started to dominate conservative Catholic circles and parts of the internet. Pope Benedict in 2007 eased restrictions on using the Latin Mass in his letter Summorum Pontificum, and hope to reconcile the ultra-traditionalists. It granted greater freedom for priests to use the Tridentine liturgy (which dates back to the Council of Trent) in its 1962 form, stating that all priests of the Latin rite Church may freely celebrate Mass with the 1962 Missal privately. It also provided that "in parishes where a group of the faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition stably exists, the parish priest should willingly accede to their requests to celebrate Holy Mass according to the rite of the 1962 Roman Missal". Many were surprised that he made no change in the 1962 missal -- the main prayer book for the old rite -- which includes prayers on Good Friday for the conversion of the Jews. This caused anxiety in Jewish civil right groups, even though the Second Vatican Council had repudiated the idea of collective Jewish guilt for Christ’s death.

Pope Francis when celebrating Mass in 2015 on the fiftieth anniversary of the first mass in the vernacular said he hoped that commemorating the first papal Mass in the vernacular rather than Latin would remind people that the house of God is meant to be a source of spiritual strength, where they can hear his word and feel "not like foreigners but as brothers and sisters" who are united in their love for Christ. People must continue to be committed to "the purification and inner cleansing of the church," the pope said, so that it be a spiritual place and not a superficial place of worship. Authentic worship and liturgical celebrations should lead people toward "a real conversion" of heart by letting them hear "the voice of the Lord, who guides them along the path of rectitude and Christian perfection."


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