- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2006

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has decided to loosen restrictions on use of the old Latin Mass, a Vatican official said yesterday, a major concession to ultratraditionalist Catholics, who split with the Vatican to protest reforms.

The decision is part of Benedict’s efforts to woo back Catholics who joined a rebel archbishop in protest over the changes.

The pope’s intent is to “help overcome the schism and help bring [the ultratraditionalists] back to the church,” said the official, who asked that his name not be used because the papal document has not been released.

It was not clear when the pope will make his decision public, but the official said it was expected soon. The Times of London reported yesterday that the pope has signed the order and it could be published in the next few weeks.

The 16th-century Tridentine Mass — the name of the old Latin Mass — was swept away by the so-called New Mass after the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council. The reforms called for Mass to be said in local languages, for the priest to face the congregation instead of having his back to worshippers as he faced the altar and for the use of lay readers.

Officials for the Archdiocese of Washington and the dioceses of Arlington and Richmond said that they do not anticipate using the Latin Mass more often because some of their churches already offer it.

Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, noted three churches that offer services in Latin: St. Mary Mother of God Church in the District, St. John the Evangelist Church in Silver Spring and St. Francis de Sales Church in Benedict, Md.

Soren Johnson, spokesman of the Diocese of Arlington, said that St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal and St. Lawrence the Martyr Church in Alexandria celebrate the Tridentine Mass from the 1962 missal.

Stephen Neill, a spokesman for the Diocese of Richmond, said he thinks there will be little effect on the diocese because people have “long known about” the existence of St. Joseph’s Church in Richmond and St. Benedict Chapel in Chesapeake, where the Latin Mass is celebrated.

• Michael Hunsberger contributed to this report.

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