Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
The Pope is going ahead with plans to bring back the traditional Latin Mass in spite of objections from German bishops, sources have told The Times.
Pope Benedict XVI is understood to have signed an “indult”, or permission, that would allow Roman Catholics worldwide to celebrate the Tridentine Rite whenever they wished. At present the old rite can be said only with special permission from a diocesan bishop.
The return of the Tridentine Rite would represent a triumph for traditionalists and be an indication of the Pope’s determination to reinforce conservative Catholic doctrine as one of his most powerful weapons in the fight against secularism.
In Brazil last week the Pope made clear his conservative sympathies, emphasising that there could be no relaxation on the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics and abortion.
In a private audience with one leading traditionalist, Alice von Hildebrand, Pope Benedict said that he intended to publish the permission to celebrate the 16th-century rite this month.
The document had been expected earlier but is understood to have been delayed after a seven-page document of objections by German bishops was sent to the Pope.
Among other things, the Germans were anxious about a Good Friday prayer calling for the conversion of the Jews. A wider revolt by bishops’ conferences around the world would have seen off the indult, but in the end the Germans were isolated in their protest. However, when the permission is published, it is thought likely to exclude prayer for the conversion of the Jews, which leaders of the German and the British councils of Christians and Jews have spoken out against.
It could also include an “opt-out clause”, allowing bishops to prohibit it at a local level, which would placate both the German and the modernist French bishops.
Mrs von Hildebrand, 83, an author and lecturer who lives in the US, told The Times: “I know that the Pope favours the Tridentine Mass very, very much. I asked him if there was any chance that the permission would be given. He said it would be given in May.”
Mrs von Hildebrand, whose late husband was the theologian Dietrich von Hildebrand, added: “You should prohibit what is evil. But to prohibit holy tradition — that is something that goes against the tradition of the Catholic Church.” Another informed source said that the permission could not be guaranteed to be this month.