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Conjugation for the congregation: a primer on where to begin

16 August 2007


From Mr Richard Doney
Sir, — The recent motu proprio of Pope Benedict did not give permission for priests to say mass in Latin (News, 10 August). All priests are already permitted to say mass in Latin, according to the missal of Paul VI, the language of which is Latin with the vernacular being a permitted, albeit almost universal, option.

His Holiness actually gave permission for all priests to say mass according to the missal of John XXIII, a missal that happens not to have a permitted vernacular translation. The forthcoming conference at Merton College is not to teach priests how to say mass in Latin; it’s to teach priests how to say the mass of John XXIII. They are not the same thing. As many traditionalists are forced to shout, it’s not about Latin.

Pusey House, Oxford OX1 3LZ

From the Revd Dr Simon Jones
Sir, — Last week’s news article, “RC priests learn Latin”, and your leader comment, “Newman’s day”, stated that Merton College and its Anglican chaplain had given their “blessing” to the Latin Mass Society’s conference, which will take place in the college at the end of this month. This is somewhat misleading.

Like most other Oxford colleges, Merton hosts a number of conferences, organised by a range of organisations, during the summer vacation. These are arranged on a purely commercial basis. This does not in any way imply that the college or any of its officers have given their blessing to the aims and objectives of the groups that meet here.

Merton College
Oxford OX1 4JD

From Canon Ian Tomlinson
Sir, — Reading the reference to Catholic priests learning to say mass in Latin reminded me of going with a bereaved family to visit the young local priest, to help them arrange a funeral mass for a parishioner of a mixed marriage who had died.

When the family asked if they could have some Latin prayers during the service, he replied: “Oh, I don’t do the Latin. I wouldn’t know where to begin.” And that was that.

On the day, I read some suitable prayers in Latin over the parishioner’s grave, in my stilted sixth-form Anglican voice, as I buried him in the village churchyard, following the Roman obsequies in which I had taken part. I used the copy of St Benedict’s Prayer Book that this parishioner had given me, as an ecumenical and kind gesture, just before his sudden death.

It all felt very right at the time, and since, as he attended both parish churches and received holy communion regularly at each.

The Rectory
Ragged Appleshaw
Andover SP11 9HX

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