After the reforms to the liturgy mandated by the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II continued to allow priests and settled groups of the faithful to celebrate the pre-conciliar Mass, but only in special circumstances. Then, in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI took the momentous decision to issue Summorum Pontificum. With little warning, most of the restrictions on the use of the so-called “Tridentine Mass” were removed. There would now be two “forms” of the one Roman rite, namely the “Ordinary” Form, the reformed Mass in almost universal use, celebrated in Latin and, more commonly, the vernacular, and the “Extraordinary” Form, the pre-conciliar liturgy, better known as the “Traditional Latin Mass” (TLM).
Though Pope Benedict’s own life and vocation were inspired by the pre-conciliar Mass, he too, like the Council Fathers, was acutely aware that reform was needed. Though critical of the way the actual reform was carried out, he was also aware of the rich potential of the Mass in the vernacular, especially in former mission territories. More seriously, he was alarmed at the growing division in the (mostly Western) Church caused by the divergent reaction of “progressives” and “traditionalists” to the reforms. He also hoped that the impoverished ritual dynamics of what he called the Ordinary Form (and, especially, their more than occasional misuse by “creative” clerics) would be enhanced by the richer ritual dynamics of the Extraordinary Form – and, it is important to add, vice versa.
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