Ask a Franciscan

Celebrating the Mass in Latin 

The other day at Mass, someone told me that the pope has said that priests can no longer celebrate Mass in Latin. Is that true?

No. The Novus Ordo Missae, authorized by St. Paul VI in 1969 and implemented in 1970, can still be celebrated in Latin. Since 1970, all the popes in public Masses in St. Peter’s have used this form of the Mass. 

At issue here are the conditions under which the Tridentine Mass (authorized in 1570 by St. Pius V) can be celebrated and who supervises it. 

Through “Traditionis Custodes” (“Guardians of Tradition”), a motu proprio dated July 16, Pope Francis annulled similar documents issued by St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI that loosened restrictions on celebrating the Tridentine Mass in Latin. Local bishops now have full authority to oversee its use. An item in Church in the News on page 6 of this issue gives more details about this motu proprio and the papal letter explaining it (both published at  

After consulting the world’s bishops about the long-term effects of these two papal decisions, Pope Francis wrote, “An opportunity offered by St. John Paul II and, with even greater magnanimity, by Benedict XVI, intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.” 

St. Paul rebuked Christians in Corinth who divided that Church by claiming to belong to Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or Christ (1 Cor 1:12–13). Pope Francis wants to prevent something similar from happening to the Mass. 

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