For the first time in 25 years, a cardinal at St. Patrick’s Cathedral celebrated a centuries-old Mass in Latin on Sunday that was long-banned in Catholic churches.
To the booming chords and chorus of Mozart’s “Coronation Mass,” Cardinal Alfons Stickler, the retired head of the Vatican library and archives, led a half-hour procession of 50 church officials in gold brocade robes.
He turned away from the congregation of 4,500, faced the altar and spoke in Latin during a special 2-1/2-hour Tridentine rite, named for the 16th century Council of Trent. The usual Catholic Mass lasts an hour.
The Council, based in northern Italy, condemned the Reformation, undertook Catholic reform and defined Catholic doctrines.
“The rite is so controversial now that a lot of priests flat refuse to let their people to hear it. Now we hope they’ll say, well, they did it at St. Patrick’s so let’s give it a try,” said Austin Ruse, a spokesman for Christi Fideles, a Catholic group that sponsored the Roman Catholic Mass.
The Mass was familiar to Catholics for many years. The revised liturgy, which officially replaced the Tridentine rite in 1971, is celebrated in local languages with the priest facing the congregation.
The Latin Mass was effectively banned until 1984, when Pope John Paul II, in what some saw as a concession to conservative forces within the church, granted permission for it to be celebrated in certain circumstances.
More than 100 of the 181 dioceses in the United States - including the New York Archdiocese headed by Cardinal O’Connor - now allow some parishes to provide Latin Masses.
Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for O’Connor, said the Latin Mass is celebrated weekly in some of the archdiocese’s churches.
Older people attending said the Mass reminded them of their childhood, while some younger people seemed bewildered by the regalia.
“It’s hard to tell what’s going on and the language is not always clear. In that sense, it’s a little disappointing,” said Manuel Castedo.