In reply to Angelo Micallef's concerns (July 10) about the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificium that allows for wider celebration of the "old" Roman Missal, it has to be clarified that Pope Benedict's directives permit the use of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962.

Claims on the supposed "rift" and "distance between us and those of the Jewish faith", which will spring forth as a consequence of the use of this "old Latin liturgy" (July 6) are unfounded inasmuch as in 1959, Pope John XXIII removed from the "old" missal the notorious phrase concerning Jews and used in the prayer of the faithful on Good Friday. Still, even in the post-Vatican II rite, Catholics, on Good Friday, pray among others, for Jews, for those who do not embrace any faith and for people who embrace other religious beliefs.

The Pope himself explained the motivation behind this allowance, saying among others that: i) the 1962 missal "was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted"; ii) that there is still in the Roman Catholic Communion "a good number of people who remained strongly attached to this usage of the Roman Rite". After Vatican II the "old rite" did not remain in use only by the Society of St Pius X, founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and who was excommunicated on reasons that "were at a deeper level" other than his "fidelity to the old missal".

There is no reason for anybody to "feel further distanced from the faith" because of this issue. For a priest to celebrate Mass in the "old rite" there should be a community of Catholics who ask for it. No one is obliged to do so. The Pope is only allowing those who wish, to do so.

Motivated by "charity and pastoral prudence", the Pope's invitation is to "generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows". Considering that even after Vatican II, there are still religious orders who have their proper liturgical norms and rites, which differ from the the Roman Rite, this is no strange move. Even Catholic communities in full communion with the Pope, like the Greek Catholics and the Archdiocese of Milan, still use their own liturgical rites! So, there should be nothing strange about this allowance and about having two forms of the Roman Rite.

I interpret it is another practical move by the present Pope to promote unity in diversity in the Catholic Church itself, breaching the ever-present rift between "traditionalists" and "liberalists" attempting to foster between them mutual understanding. During the Mass for the inauguration of his pontificate in April 24, 2005 the Pope explicitly expressed his commitment to unity in the following words: "Lord, remember your promise. Grant that we may be one flock and one shepherd! Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!"

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