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SCOTTISH Catholics have turned to a dead language to try to breathe new life into the church.
The traditionalists won another battle yesterday when Archbishop Mario Conti held a full Tridentine Latin Mass at a church in Glasgow, the first time in 18 years it has been used in a mainstream service. The move delighted conservatives within the faith who believe the Latin rite is more inspiring and mysterious than the English version and should be introduced in churches across the country.
But liberals were furious with Conti, claiming the use of Latin would alienate far more people from the church than it would attract. For centuries the Tridentine Latin rite was the only approved way of celebrating mass.
But since the mid-1960s, when the Second Vatican Council gave approval for other languages to be used, the Latin version has been frowned upon by the majority of Catholics.
Unlike the English mass in which a priest faces his congregation, the Latin mass sees the priest turn his back, leading them rather than joining them – a gesture that many find offensive.
Cardinal Winning refused to conduct masses in Latin and was a staunch supporter of English services. And in 1984, Scotland’s catholic bishops banned the Latin rite from being used in regular church services, although it could still be performed in monasteries.
The Pope later said individual bishops could still carry out the ceremony, but none had done so until yesterday.
The service at St Mungo’s Church, in Townhead, was the first time in 30 years that a senior member of the Scottish Catholic Church has used the Latin mass.
A spokesman for Conti denied the archbishop’s action was a deliberate attempt to court conservative Catholics.
“The occasional celebration of the mass in Latin simply provides for the spiritual nourishment of those who appreciate the beauty of the Latin language and Gregorian Chant,” he said.
“Catholics in Scotland already have access to a wide range of liturgies within the Roman Rite, from folk masses to English-language choral singing.”
Conti performed the mass at the request of Una Voce, an organisation that represents traditional Catholics...
Speaking before yesterday’s service, Father Paul Francis Spencer, the rector of St Mungo, said that although he understood Latin, he was more comfortable with English when saying mass. “We are delighted to be able to welcome Archbishop Conti to the parish, and interested in hearing the Latin rite mass,” he said.
“Mass means the same to me in English or Latin." But he admitted: “I have to confess to feeling about the English mass as sometimes people feel about opera which has been translated from Italian or German into English. When you hear the English version it feels as though something is missing somehow.”