British lords, celebrities call on Vatican to preserve ‘treasure’ of Latin Mass

British lords, celebrities call on Vatican to preserve ‘treasure’ of Latin Mass

A distinguished cadre of British public figures is calling upon the Holy See to preserve what they describe as the “magnificent” cultural artifact of the Catholic Church’s Traditional Latin Mass.

In 2021 Pope Francis placed sweeping restrictions on the celebration of Mass using the 1962 Roman Missal, known also as the extraordinary form of the Roman rite and the Tridentine Mass. Rumours have circulated in recent months that the Vatican is preparing to clamp down further on the celebration of that ancient liturgy.

No new directives on the Latin Mass have yet been promulgated amid the rumours. In a letter last week to the London newspaper The Times, meanwhile, a wide cross-section of English cultural fixtures openly implored the Vatican to refrain from restricting the rite further.

“Recently there have been worrying reports from Rome that the Latin Mass is to be banished from nearly every Catholic church,” the letter said. “This is a painful and confusing prospect, especially for the growing number of young Catholics whose faith has been nurtured by it.”

The signatories, which included actress and human rights advocate Bianca Jagger, author Tom Holland, musical eminence Julian Lloyd Webber, and media executive Sir Nicholas Coleridge, described the Latin Mass as a “cathedral” of “text and gesture” that developed over many centuries.

“Not everyone appreciates its value and that is fine,” the writers said, “but to destroy it seems an unnecessary and insensitive act in a world where history can all too easily slip away forgotten”.

“The old rite’s ability to encourage silence and contemplation is a treasure not easily replicated, and, when gone, impossible to reconstruct,” they said.

The writers in their letter pointed to a 1971 petition from a similar cross-section of prominent Britons that had also asked the Vatican to preserve the Latin Mass in England.

That petition led to the “Agatha Christie indult” allowing the extraordinary form to continue there; the indult was named after the famous author who was among the signatories.

In their letter this week the British celebrities said their petition, like the 1971 request, was “entirely ecumenical and nonpolitical”.

“The signatories include Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and nonbelievers,” they wrote. “We implore the Holy See to reconsider any further restriction of access to this magnificent spiritual and cultural heritage.”