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French bishops say expanding use of Tridentine Mass threatens unity

By Catholic News Service

METZ, France (CNS) — The possibility of a papal indult expanding permission to use the Tridentine Mass and the recent establishment of a traditionalist religious community in France threatens the unity of the church, said a statement from 10 French bishops.

An Oct. 30 statement said the bishops from the Archdioceses of Besancon and Strasbourg and the Diocese of Metz expressed “their concerns” over wider use of the Tridentine Mass, the pre-Vatican II rite favored by traditionalist groups. The old rite is celebrated in Latin and follows the Roman Missal of 1962, which was replaced in 1969 with the new Roman Missal.

“The bishops fear that the extension of the use of the Roman Missal of 1962 makes the direction of the Second Vatican Council relative,” said an Oct. 30 statement released on the Web site of the Diocese of Metz.

Moves to extend its use “would also risk harming unity among priests as well as among the faithful,” it said.

The statement, signed by 10 bishops from the eastern French region, came after a provincial meeting of bishops in the city of Lons-le-Saunier Oct. 25.

In early September, the Vatican approved the establishment of the Good Shepherd Institute, a religious society of apostolic life that uses the traditional Mass in Latin according to the Tridentine rite.

The society was founded by a group of priests and seminarians, many of whom were members of the schismatic Society of St. Pius X.

Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux had said Pope Benedict made the decision to approve of the new religious community as “a sign of welcome” to those who once belonged to the schismatic society.

The archbishop, who is president of the French bishops’ conference, met with the pope in a private audience Oct. 26 before the start of the bishops’ Nov. 4-9 plenary session in Lourdes.

In mid-October Vatican sources confirmed to Catholic News Service that the pope was preparing to issue a document “motu proprio,” or on his own initiative, that would expand permission to use the pre-Vatican II rite.

The Tridentine rite is currently available to groups of Catholics who ask and receive permission for its use from their local bishops.

The group of French bishops said the latest events had brought confusion to the faithful, deacons and priests in their dioceses, and that they wanted to alert the Vatican about their concern “for the common good and unity of the church.”
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