Phoenix, June 21, 2008 - Pope Benedict XVI wants Catholic parishes worldwide to offer Masses in Latin, saying it is a "gift from God" and a "treasure from the past" that should be offered alongside Mass celebrated in the regular language of people where they live.
But East Valley Catholics doubt many would turn out for such Masses after initial curiosity or the novelty ended. So they wonder about the value in training current parish priests in Latin and teaching them to properly lead the old Mass, with its distinctive chants and precise rituals.
"I don't think very many Catholics are going to go back to the Tridentine Latin Mass," said the Rev. John Cunningham, the founding priest of St. Bridget parish in Mesa and St. Mary Magdalene parish in Gilbert. "They have lived with the New Mass for 40 years, and I believe they find it more meaningful and expressive of their faith."
"Vernacularization" was instituted as part of the sweeping changes of Vatican Council II (1962-65) to renew spirituality in the church in a modern world, to give lay people greater roles and to better experience the Mass in terms they understand.
On June 14, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, announced Pope Benedict 's request to the Latin Mass Society in London. "The Holy Father is not returning to the past; he is taking a treasure from the past to offer it alongside the rich celebration of the new rite," the cardinal said, adding that the pope wanted it in "all the parishes. Not many, all the parishes, because this is a gift of God."
The call includes a request to all Catholic seminaries to train candidates for the priesthood to celebrate the Latin Rite. Moreover, parishes could use their catechism classes to prepare Catholics largely unfamiliar with the rites followed before 1970, when the Novus Ordo Mass was ordered. Latin Masses are to follow the 1962 Roman Missal, first codified by Pope Pius V after the Council of Trent (1545-1563).
At the initiation of Bishop Thomas Olmsted, Masses in Latin have been offered daily since 2004 in an east Phoenix parish, monthly in a Mesa church and at other scattered parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.
"We are supportive of the Tridentine Mass where people want the Mass, and we are trying to train more priests," said diocesan spokesman Jim Dwyer. But, he said, Bishop Olmsted and Office of Worship staff have not seen the official Vatican communications related to Pope Benedict 's call. "Until we see the guidelines, we really can't address the idea of doing it in every parish yet," he said.
The plan got generally a cool reception among Catholics reached for reaction.
"I haven't had any requests in my parish for the Latin Mass," said the Rev. Doug Lorig, pastor of St. Maria Goretti parish in Scottsdale. He has not heard of any of his parishioners regularly attending the 6:30 a.m. daily Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle in Phoenix or one at 1 p.m. Sundays that typically draws as many as 250 worshipers.
"They haven't asked for it, and I haven't made any kind of offering for it," Lorig said. For priests, he said, it would take extensive training to meet the rubrics and procedures of the Mass not commonly experienced by Catholics in decades. It's much more than just mastering Latin, he said, "You have to learn all the liturgical movements, and everything behind it." Lorig predicted "a lot of priests are going to hesitate, and they certainly aren't going to do it if there is no call for it."
"I don't see a need to see it in every parish," said Betty Bova, a member of St. Bernard of Clairvaux parish in Scottsdale. Those who want the Latin Mass "could travel a little bit and just go to it," she said. If her parish had such a Mass mixed into its weekend schedule, "I would probably attend once just for curiosity and for old-time sake, because when I was little, that is what we did," Bova said.
"I think it's boring," said 82-year-old Mary Douglas of Tempe, a longtime member of St. Mary's parish in Chandler, saying the church should be more concerned with retaining young Catholics. "What can we do to make people to stop leaving the church?"
Many Catholics cannot even understand the Mass in English, "much less in Latin," said Douglas, who, for many years, has attended St. Mary's Christmas Eve Latin Mass, which she termed a "rewarding experience," nonetheless.
"The big picture is what counts," she stressed. "Why are people leaving? Why do they not attend Mass? Why is Mass boring?"
Allison Walters, a 38-year-old Tempean with St. Andrew the Apostle parish in Chandler, said she hears no call from her Catholic peers for a Latin Mass. "I appreciate it for the history and the charm, how it once was," Walters said. "I would want to attend it once and experience it once, but I wouldn't do it on a regular basis." She said she would take her two children. "They would be bored quicker than me," she predicted.
"You would have to attend it pretty regularly to figure it out," she said, adding that the priest's homily in English now has great meaning to her, but likely she would not make such a connection if she listened to it in Latin.
A member of St. Mary Magdalene parish in Gilbert, Judy Webber, recalls singing Latin in a choir when she was young. "The nice thing about it was that no matter where you went in the world, or within the States, the same Mass was celebrated." Webber said the old Mass represents a "rich tradition, and I really welcome it back and look forward to it."
Jay Kilroy, a parishioner of Queen of Peace in Mesa, said he was "very refreshed by Vatican II. I thought it was a great move in the right direction." He would not attend a Latin Mass if it was offered at his church. "I have not felt or sensed that there was a groundswell of people who like the Latin Mass," he said.
The priest who regularly leads Latin Masses in Phoenix, Mesa, Clarkdale and Flagstaff, the Rev. Kenneth Fryar, welcomed the news of the pope's quest for the spread of the Masses.
"God deserves proper adoration, proper devotion, proper respect, and that is what this Mass is all about," he said. He criticized those who want Mass to be "convenient" or fitting their wishes. "Convenience is out of the question here. The church has always been dedicated to serving God. That is the main issue here."
The rite calls for the priest and congregation to all face the altar because "the whole focus of the Mass is toward God, and he unites himself with the people," said Fryar, adding that "praying and praising" isn't a "social thing" where there has to be a lot of music "and you need a lot of stuff to keep everyone entertained."
He insists that Olmsted "has made it clear that he doesn't want anyone celebrating the (Latin) Mass who doesn't know how to do it properly."
Cunningham said no one has requested, to him, a celebration of the Latin Mass during his 34 years in the priesthood. He said he believes the pope may be seeking to engender "a sense of unity in the church," evoking the pre-Vatican II times when it was the universal language for the church. He said today's younger priests seem to be "more conservative, in general, and display a penchant for traditionalism when it comes to the liturgy," so "some of them, no doubt, will be pleased with the return to the Tridentine Mass in Latin and its 16th century theology," said Cunningham, a religious studies instructor at Arizona State University.
Across the Phoenix diocese, with 91 parishes and 25 missions, Masses are offered in eight languages, besides English and Latin: Spanish, Italian, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, Tongan, Lithuanianand Mayan, according to Dwyer.
"I have never heard any of my friends being serious about returning to the Latin Mass," said Harold "Hal" White, a member of Church of the Resurrection parish in Tempe. "We just don't talk about it. ... If they want it, I think it's fine. I don't think I would go back to it."
Vatican, Jun. 21, 2008 - Pope Benedict XVI met on June 20 with administrators of Catholic radio stations from around the world, and told them: "The words that you broadcast each day are an echo of that eternal Word which became flesh."
The Holy Father spoke to participants in a conference at the Pontifical Urban University, organized by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, under the leadership of Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli. He told the 130 broadcasting executives, representing stations in 50 different countries, that they should recognize the importance of their work in the evangelizing mission of the Church.
Pope Benedict told the radio executives that he could understand how they might feel "completely lost amid the competition of other noisy and more powerful mass media." But he urged them not to become discouraged, reminding them that Jesus was born into humble surroundings, isolated from the "noisy imperial cities of antiquity," so that the climactic even in of human history, the Incarnation, nearly escaped public notice.
Nevertheless the Word of God has been preached all around the world, the Pope continued. Catholic radio stations, he observed, transmit the Gospel message to untold numbers of people, reaching thousands who may be hearing the Good News at a propitious time. "This work of patient sowing, carried on day after day, hour after hour, is your way of cooperating in the apostolic mission," he told the broadcasters.
Radio personnel might never meet those who are touched by their words, the Pope said, and yet "your can be a small but real echo in the world of the network of friendship that the presence of the risen Christ, the God-with-us, inaugurated between heaven and earth and among mankind of all continents and epochs."
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko made the offer the same day he met with Vatican's No. 2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who is in the country to preside at the weekend consecration of the first Catholic church to be built in the capital city, Minsk, since 1910.
The Orthodox church, which includes about 80 percent of the population, wields significant clout in Belarus through a 2003 agreement it signed with the government.
But the Vatican under Benedict has been pursuing a goal of outreach to the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians. A trip to Belarus by Benedict could move the Vatican and Russian Orthodox Church one step closer to a meeting — and the ultimate goal of healing the nearly 1,000-year schism between the two main branches of Christianity.
Lukashenko is also desperate to boost his reputation ahead of September's parliamentary elections — including hiring a British public relations firm in March to package his policies in for Western consumption.
Lukashenko met Friday with Bertone, the Holy See's secretary of state, when the president indicated approval of an agreement between Belarus and the Holy See that would give the Catholic Church the legal right to work with government institutions in promoting its values.
"Our co-operation answers all the demands of our society, its values and orientations," Lukashenko said, according to Friday's statement from the presidential press service. It was unclear when the agreement would be signed.
Bertone said the Vatican would help Belarus "find its place in the world."
Bertone is the Vatican's highest-ranked official ever to visit Belarus.
Minsk-based political analyst Yaroslav Romanchuk said Friday's developments were the upshot of successful bargaining.
"The Vatican is realizing a long-held strategy of expanding throughout Belarus and getting access to state structures," Romanchuk said.
Lukashenko, for his part, will use the Vatican to "lobby for his type of politics" using its sway within the European Union and the United States, he said. Furthermore, the Vatican will uphold the sovereignty of Belarus, which Lukashenko fears may eventually fall into Russia's hands, Romanchuk said.
Catholic-Orthodox relations in the former Soviet Union have been particularly thorny following the demise of the Soviet Union, with the Orthodox accusing the Vatican of trying to poach for converts. The Vatican insists it is just looking after the welfare of its tiny flock there.
The tensions have prevented a meeting between the Russian Patriarch Alexy II and the pope.
Property disputes have aggravated attempts to improve relations between Catholics and Orthodox in the former Soviet Union, and were one of the reasons John Paul II, a Slav, never realized his dream of making a papal pilgrimage to Russia.
Vatican City Jun.19, 2008 – Even today at the start of the third millennium Christians must pray, but they must also act together for the good of their fellow human beings. Prayer is indispensable but not if it disconnected from charity-inspired action in the service of others.
Benedict XVI devoted his thoughts in today’s general audience to Saint Isidore of Seville, a Father of the Church who lived between the 6th and 7th centuries, who even today teaches us about the need for the right mediation between the desire to lead a contemplative life and the duty to devote oneself to the service of others.
To the more than 20,000 people present in St Peter’s Square, the Pope focused on Isidore’s thoughts. “Considered the last Christian Father of Antiquity,” he believed that in imitating Christ, who had an active life and at the same time withdrew to the “mountain” to pray, Christians can “devote themselves to contemplation without denying themselves an active life; behaving differently would not be right. In fact as one loves God through contemplation, one loves one’s fellow human beings through action.”
In looking at Saint Isidore’s life, Benedict XVI said the former was the brother of Bishop Leander, whom he succeeded in 599 AD, who raised him in an environment that befitted the life of a studious monk. The two had a rich library of classical Pagan and Christian texts and he was pushed towards “a very strong discipline in dedicating himself to learning.”
As his books show he was interested in all cultural fields, had an “encyclopaedic knowledge” and literary texts that went from Cicero to Gregory the Great.
In order to understand him better it is necessary to remember the complexity of the political times in which he lived.
In his childhood he “experienced the bitterness of exile,” but “felt the thrill of making a contribution to the preparation of a people that was rediscovering its political and religious unity.”
He had huge problems like his relationship with heretics and Jews, “problems which appear real even today, especially if one thinks about what is happening in some regions in which we seem to witness situations similar to those of 6th century Iberian Peninsula.”
A “man with strong dialectical contrapositions’” he went through the same inner conflict his friend Pope Gregory the Great and Saint Augustine experienced, i.e. a conflict “between the desire for solitude to meditate and the need for charity towards his brothers, whose salvation, he felt, was his charge.”
Men of God, he said, do not want to get involved in secular things and grieve when they are burdened with responsibilities, but they accept what they would like to escape from and avoid if that is God’s will.
“This synthesis of a life that seeks God’s contemplation and dialogue through prayer and the reading of the Holy Scriptures as well as action in the service of the human community is Isidore’s great lesson to us, Christians of today, who are called to bear witness to Christ at the start of the new millennium.”
During the audience, the Holy Father gave “warm greetings” in English to “a group of Holocaust survivors present today.”
The Pope will anoint each confirmation candidate with holy oil during the final mass on July 20 of the six-day WYD event, expected to be attended by some 500,000 people.
The candidates will also receive holy communion from Pope Benedict .
The 14 people, drawn from all Australia's states and territories, will be aged between 16 and 43.
Ten international visitors will join them to "receive the sacrament that marks the completion of baptismal grace", organisers say.
"It's not every day that one is confirmed by the global leader of the Catholic Church before hundreds of thousands of people," WYD coordinator Bishop Anthony Fisher said in a statement released today.
"The sacrament is life-changing and to receive the sacrament in this way will prove an unforgettable experience, one that they will each carry with them for the rest of their lives.
"The candidates have been selected as representatives of their regions by bishops across Australia and we are absolutely delighted to be able to present them to the Pope for this momentous occasion."
The 10 international confirmation candidates are yet to be chosen.
Organised by the Catholic Church, WYD runs from July 15-20 and marks the first visit to Australia by Pope Benedict XVI.