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RC priests learn Latin

09 August 2007

by Bill Bowder

ROMAN CATHOLIC priests who want to learn how to say mass in Latin are to receive special training at a three-day course at Merton College, Oxford, this month, with the blessing of the Anglican chaplain, the Revd Dr Simon Jones,

The event comes after Pope Benedict’s recent Apostolic Letter (News, 13 July), which relaxed the rule that required priests to seek the approval of their bishop before using the Latin rite.

No previous knowledge of Latin would be required, said the organiser, John Medlin, this week. Mr Medlin, who is the general manager of the Latin Mass Society (LMS), said on Tuesday that places at the conference, which focuses on the low mass, were being snapped up. More than 400 RC priests had been sent information packs, and about 50 were expected to attend.

He had had “a fair amount of interest from C of E priests of Anglo-Catholic tendency — although we have restricted the participants to RC priests and seminarians only”. Another conference, focusing on the high mass, to which Anglicans could be invited, was being considered.

The priests would be taught the mass’s history from St Gregory the Great to the present. It was primarily a sacrifice rather than a communal meal, Mr Medlin said. “The Latin mass emphasises the vertical rather than the horizontal.”

The priests would be instructed in the rubrics of the mass and their meaning in the tightly controlled rite. “If you allow space for too much variation and creativity, there is a danger that the priest muddles the understanding of the congregation of what is taking place and why,” Mr Medlin said.

The mass was attracting young people who were looking for a clear direction, he said. “They are very attracted by the firmness of the doctrine.”

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, will open the training conference on Tuesday 28 August by celebrating a mass in Latin. The Bishop of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Rt Revd Edward Slattery, will celebrate a pontifical high mass in Latin at the end.

Julian Chadwick, the chairman of the LMS, said Archbishop Nichols’s involvement was “the clearest sign yet of a determination to normalise relations between those attached to the new and traditional [Latin] rites”.

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