Pope Francis again turns screws on use of traditional Latin Mass
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Tuesday further tightened the screws on Catholic conservatives over the use of traditional Latin Mass, rebuking bishops who had allowed it to be said in parishes without previous permission from the Vatican.
Francis issued a brief but unequivocal decree underscoring sections of a document he issued in 2021, when he overturned liberalising decisions by his two predecessors, who had been more lenient towards the traditional Latin Mass.
Since 2021 some conservative bishops have openly defied the pope, resulting in the latest chapter of what some have dubbed the Church's "liturgy wars".
In particular, some bishops skirted the part of the 2021 regulations that prohibited the use of parish churches for Latin Mass and the opening of new churches dedicated to it, unless they received a specific dispensation from the Vatican.
Some also had closed an eye to the regulation that priests ordained after 2021 needed special permission from the Vatican to say the old-style Latin Mass.
Tuesday's papal decree stresses the original rules in the 2021 document and says specifically that bishops who acted without a Vatican dispensation must now seek one retroactively.
Some conservatives in the Church have used the Latin Mass as a battle cry in their general opposition to the reforms of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, which included the introduction of Mass in vernacular languages.
Religious conservatives in the United States in particular have used the Latin Mass debate to align with politically conservative media outlets to criticise the pope over a host of other issues such as climate change, immigration and social justice.
When he first issued the restrictions in 2021, Francis said the good will and leniency shown by his predecessors - Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI - had been "exploited" by some for ideological reasons, risking further division.
Before the Council, Catholic Mass was a much more elaborate ritual led in Latin by a priest facing east with his back to the congregation for most of the service. Vatican II modernised the liturgy, including more active participation by the congregation.
Traditionalists, who are a small but very vocal minority in the 1.3 billion-member Church, have rejected the new Mass, which is known as the Novus Ordo and entered into general use in the early 1970s. Many missed the Latin rites' sense of mystery and awe and the centuries-old sacred music that went with it.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Sharon Singleton)