D.C. Cardinal limits ‘traditional’ Latin Mass to three churches, cuts long-term favorite

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., said Friday only three “non-parochial” churches will be allowed to offer the Traditional Latin Mass after Sept. 21.

One of the more prominent locations for the ritual taken from the 1962 Roman Missal, St. Mary Mother of God church in the District’s Chinatown, is not on the list.

Instead, the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in the District and two Maryland parishes — the Chapel at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Forest Glen and the Mission Church of St. Dominic in Aquasco — will be permitted to offer the ritual, only on Sundays.

The adjacent Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, has not announced its implementation of rules promulgated last year by Pope Francis, and a spokesman said they are not aware of a timetable for such an announcement.

Reflecting on Francis’ 2021 document, “Traditiones Custodes,” Cardinal Gregory said in a statement, “It is clear that the Holy Father’s sincere intention is to bring about greater unity in the Church through the celebration of the Mass and sacraments according to the 1970 Roman Missal of Pope Paul VI.”

Traditionalist Catholics have blasted Francis’ move as a clampdown on worship that attracts many faithful, including young adults, a cohort often found leaving religion.

How great an impact this will have on the majority of Roman Catholics in the D.C. area, let alone the U.S., remains unclear. In a 2021 survey, the Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of U.S. Catholics had heard “nothing at all” about Francis’ restrictions on the traditional rite.

Of those who had heard about the change, 9% said they approved of the pope’s move, and 12% disapproved, with 14% holding “no opinion.”

Francis’s document reversed decades of greater acceptance of the 1962 Roman Missal by his predecessors, Saint John Paul II and emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. Both had sought to bridge a divide between factions in the 1.2 billion-member Roman Catholic Church by allowing greater flexibility in the use of the Latin Mass.

Benedict particularly specified that priests who wanted to celebrate the traditional Mass could do so without requesting their bishop’s permission.

But, Francis insisted, divisions had “grown” since Benedict’s 2007 document endorsing wider acceptance of the pre-Vatican II rite. Following that Second Vatican Council, Catholics were allowed to celebrate Mass in the local, or “vernacular” language of a given community.

In an ecclesiastical letter accompanying the 2021 decree, Francis wrote the permission extended by his predecessors “was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.”

The Washington Times reached out to the Rev. Vincent De Rosa, pastor of St. Mary Mother of God parish, for comment but did not receive an immediate response.

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