Retired cardinal explains why he won’t celebrate Tridentine Mass

ROME – Although he loves the Latin language and would have no technical difficulty even preaching in Latin, retired Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan, Italy, said he would not celebrate the Tridentine Mass.
The 80-year-old cardinal, writing in an Italian newspaper July 29, said he admired Pope Benedict XVI’s “benevolence” in allowing Catholics “to praise God with ancient and new forms” by permitting wider use of the 1962 form of the Mass.
However, he wrote in the July 29 edition of Il Sole 24 Ore, his experience as a bishop convinced him of the importance of a common liturgical prayer to express Catholics’ unity of belief.
Pope Benedict allowed for wider use of the Tridentine Mass in a July 7 document. The Tridentine Mass is the Latin-language liturgy that predates the Second Vatican Council; it was last revised in the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal.
The cardinal, a widely respected biblical scholar, said the first reason he would not use the old Mass is because “with the Second Vatican Council there was a real step forward in understanding the liturgy and its ability to nourish us with the word of God, offered in a much more abundant way than before.”
The old Mass has a one-year cycle of Scripture readings, while the new Mass uses a three-year cycle of different readings for Sundays and a two-year cycle for weekdays.
Cardinal Martini said his second reason for not going back to the old Mass was that it would be symptomatic of “that sense of closure that emanated from the entire kind of Christian life that people lived then.”
The cardinal wrote, “I am very grateful to the Second Vatican Council because it opened doors and windows for a Christian life that was happier and more humanly livable.”
Obviously, he said, it was possible to live a holy and happy Christian life before the council, but “Christian existence lacked that little grain of mustard that gives added flavor to daily life.”
Cardinal Martini’s third reason was the need for unity in prayer within each diocese and a practical concern for bishops already struggling to find and assign priests in a way that makes the Eucharist available to as many people as possible.
“Here I trust in the traditional good sense of our people, who will understand how the bishop already struggles to provide the Eucharist to everyone and that it would not be easy to multiply the celebrations or pull out of thin air ordained ministers capable of meeting all the needs of individuals,” he said.
Cardinal Martini said the first 35 years of his life – his first Communion, theology studies and ordination – were marked by the old Mass.
“It was in the framework of this rite that there began and developed that contact with the divine” and with the mysteries of God who “surrounds us, penetrates us, gives us live and makes us sense a holy presence,” he said.
While he would not use the permission granted by the pope in early July, Cardinal Martini said the pope’s willingness to satisfy those Catholics attached to the old rite could signal an “openness to reaching out to everyone, which gives hope for a future of dialogue among all who seek God with a sincere heart.”

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.