Pope Benedict speaking to astronauts in the International Space Station via video link. CNS photo

VATICAN CITY – A new Vatican instruction urges local Church leaders to respond generously to Catholics who seek celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal, commonly known as the Tridentine rite.

The instruction, issued on May 13, said pastors should approve such Masses even when groups are small or are formed of people from different parishes or dioceses. These faithful cannot, however, contest the validity of the modern Mass or the authority of the pope.

“In deciding individual cases, the pastor or the rector, or the priest responsible for a church, is to be guided by his own prudence, motivated by pastoral zeal and a spirit of generous welcome,” it said.

Depending on pastoral needs, bishops should make sure seminarians are trained in celebrating the Tridentine rite, or “extraordinary form” of the Mass.

At the same time, the Vatican said the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei would be responsible for ensuring local Church officials were making the old rite available where warranted.

The instruction was issued by the Ecclesia Dei commission and approved by Pope Benedict XVI. It came nearly four years after the pope, in his apostolic letter, Summorum Pontificum, relaxed restrictions on use of the Tridentine rite and said it should be made available in every parish where groups of the faithful desire it.

The new instruction said the pope’s letter of 2007 had three main aims: to offer the old rite to all the faithful as a “precious treasure” to be preserved, to guarantee the use of the old rite “for all who ask for it” and to promote reconciliation in the Church.

The easing of restrictions on the rite is just the first step in a “reform of the reform” in liturgy, the Vatican’s top ecumenist said.

The pope’s long-term aim is not simply to allow the old and new rites to coexist, but to move towards a “common rite” that is shaped by the mutual enrichment of the two Mass forms, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said on May 14.

In effect, the pope is launching a new liturgical reform movement, the cardinal said. Those who resist it, including “rigid” progressives, mistakenly view Vatican II as a rupture with the Church’s liturgical tradition, he said. - CNS

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