James MacMillan said the decision by the Vatican proved that the negative attitude towards the Latin Mass from some members of the Scottish clergy, which came to light earlier this year at the time of the announcement of the Pope’s visit, had been unnecessary.
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An outspoken critic of the way modern English Mass is celebrated in some parishes, MacMillan said: “The activists who said it would divide the church in Scotland have been wrong-footed by events.
“There’s an element among the priesthood of a certain age who got the wrong end of the stick and assumed Latin, as well as the Gregorian chant, were finished. Why they thought those things I have no idea, but it is now clear they have lost their argument. The Church is moving forward through the nurturing of its long and historic tradition.”
The decision to say the Canon and Preface -- the most significant parts of the Mass -- in Latin was revealed yesterday in an interview in The Herald with Monsignor Guido Marini, the Pope’s master of ceremonies.
When the possibililty of a state visit by the Pope to the UK was first suggested, The Herald exposed a rift involving those in the church who preferred the modern Mass in English, and a fear that under Pope Benedict there would be a return to the old Tridentine rite of pre-Vatican II.
MacMillan, who has written new sacred music for sung parts of the Papal masses in Glasgow and Birmingham, wrote in The Herald: “From the 1970s onwards, there has been a devaluing of our sacred liturgy, with people trying to convince themselves that introducing touchy-feely-smiley-dancey ‘folk’ liturgies would keep the youth interested in going to church when in fact they have been repulsed in their droves.
“Pope Benedict’s visit will focus all our minds on the nature of our liturgy.”
Monsignor Peter Smith, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Glasgow and an organiser of the Pope’s Mass at Bellahouston, wrote that despite generous provision of the Mass in Latin in the Extraordinary Form, his research showed that precisely 0.05% of the Archdiocese of Glasgow’s practising Catholic population choose to avail themselves of such liturgies.
“Not one of my parishioners has ever expressed a desire to reintroduce the Tridentine Mass, and many have stated they have no desire to do so,” he said.
Yesterday Mgr Smith said: “The Vatican made it clear they wanted the Pope to say some of the Glasgow Mass in Latin because there will be a live TV and internet feed from Bellahouston beamed to a global audience of one billion and they wanted the people of the world to be able to join in. The universal language of the church is Latin.”
Although the Mass falls short of a wholehearted return to the Tridentine rite, it will be seen as a “taster” of things to come.
The Bellahouston Mass will be begin in English in the current form, switch to Latin for the Eucharistic Prayer II and the Our Father and then revert to the English. The Glory Be, the Creed and the Lamb of God will be in a brand new English translation which is intended to be closer to the original Latin.
Father Gerard Burke, of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Glasgow, who regularly says Latin Mass, said: “Using Latin will help resolve and correct the many inaccuracies of the modern translation, which almost completely ignores the sense of the original.”
The new English translation will be used in its entirety for the first time in the US on the first Sunday of Advent in 2011.
Fr Burke added: “Hopefully with this Mass people will get a taster of what they will experience next year.”
The date for its introduction here has yet to be set by the Bishops Conference of Scotland.