The Holy Sacrifice of the
(Tridentine / Roman Missal of the Council of Trent)
Finally came uniformity in the
old Roman Rite and the abolition of nearly all the
medieval variants. The Council of Trent considered
the question and formed a commission to prepare a
uniform Missal. Eventually the Missal was published
by Pius V by the Bull "Quo primum" (still
printed in it) of 14 July 1570. That is really the
last stage of the history of the Roman Mass. It is
Pius V's Missal that is used throughout the Latin
Church, except in a few cases where he allowed a
modified use that had a prescription of at least
two centuries. This exception saved the variants
used by some religious orders and a few local rites
as well as the Milanese and Mozarabic liturgies.
Clement VIII (1604), Urban VIII (1634), and Leo XIII
(1884) revised the book slightly in the rubrics and
the texts of Scripture. Pius X has revised the chant
(1908.) But these revisions leave it still the Missal
of Pius V. There has been since the early Middle
Ages unceasing change in the sense of additions of
masses for new feasts, the Missal now has a number
of supplements that still grow, but liturgically
these additions represent no real change. The new
Masses are all built up exactly on the lines of the
This content of this page was written by Kieron Wood
of the Latin Mass Society of Ireland and former
religious correspondent for RTE.
What is the Tridentine Mass?
It's the Mass used in the Catholic Church for almost
1500 years, until the introduction of the Mass of
Pope Paul VI following the Second Vatican Council.
Why is it called the Tridentine Mass?
Because it was codified by the Council of Trent
in the 16th century. But the Mass itself is far older
than that. The Canon, or central part, of the Mass
dates back to the time of St Gregory in the sixth
In 1570, Pope St Pius V -
in his Papal Bull Quo Primum - said that priests
could use the Tridentine rite forever, "without scruple of conscience
or fear of penalty".
Wasn't the Tridentine Mass banned?
No, but following the Second Vatican Council, its
public use was restricted by most Bishops.
After the introduction of Pope Paul VI's new Mass,
the only priests given permission to say the Tridentine
Mass publicly were priests of England and Wales,
thanks to an indult (or permission) granted by the
Vatican to Cardinal Heenan of Westminster.
Other priests - such as Blessed Padre Pio and Blessed
Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei - continued
to use the old Mass privately in preference to the
What's the advantage of the Tridentine Mass?
One of the great strengths
of the Tridentine Mass is its uniformity. Wherever
Catholics go in the world, the Tridentine Mass
is exactly the same. The movements and gestures
of the Mass are clearly prescribed, so there's
no room for "personalization" of
the liturgy. And the time-honored Latin of the
Mass reverently reflects the sacrificial nature
of the celebration.
Didn't the Second Vatican Council forbid Latin Masses?
Not at all. The Council,
in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, said: "The use of the Latin
language is to be preserved". The Council
merely gave permission for the limited introduction
of the vernacular (or local language) into certain
parts of the Mass when celebrated in public.
Does the Pope approve of the Tridentine Mass?
Certainly. In his 1980 letter
to the Bishops on the Holy Eucharist, Pope John
Paul II said: "There
are also those people who, having been educated
on the basis of the old liturgy in Latin, experience
the lack of this 'one language', which in all the
world was an expression of the unity of the Church
and which, through its dignified character, elicited
a profound sense of the Eucharistic mystery. It
is therefore necessary to show, not only understanding,
but also full respect towards these sentiments
and desires. As far as possible, these sentiments
and desires are to be accommodated."
So are Catholics entitled to attend a Tridentine
Mass if they wish?
Yes. In 1988, Pope John Paul
II issued his binding instruction Ecclesia Dei
Adflicta. The Pope ordered: "Respect
must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all
those who are attached to the Latin liturgical
tradition by a wide and generous application of
the directives already issued by the Apostolic
This instruction grants a
privilege to Catholics under Canon Law. Cardinal
Mayer, the former head of the Vatican Commission
Ecclesia Dei, said the Pope had spoken of the "lawfulness" of
the Tridentine Mass and of the "legitimate aspiration" of
Catholics to celebrate or attend that Mass. "Hence
a privilege in the canonical sense of the term was
granted to the faithful by the supreme legislator
of the Church," said Cardinal Mayer. "Once
a privilege is duly granted, the subject indeed
has the right to benefit from it."
Where can I attend a Tridentine Mass?
Visit our directory of regular Masses throughout
the U.S. and Canada. LatinMass.org promotes the celebration
of the Tridentine Mass throughout North America according
to the 1962 Missal.
What if there's no Mass in my area?
You should find out whether there
is a genuine desire among Catholics in your area
to attend a Tridentine Mass. Consider forming an
Una Voce chapter. Also list the names and addresses
of those who wish to attend and ask your local
Bishop to grant permission for a Tridentine Mass.
A copy of the letter and the names and addresses
should also be sent to the Ecclesia Dei Commission
in Rome. If required, Una Voce will help with the
application to the Bishop.
Who would celebrate the Mass?
Your Bishop will probably appoint a local priest
to say the Mass.
What can I do to help promote the Tridentine Mass?
The first thing is to pray that
God's will be done in the restoration of the old
rite. You can also organize Masses in your diocese,
support pilgrimages and other initiatives organized
by groups like Una Voce and offer financial or
Tridentine Mass links of interest