CLEVELAND — Despite Pope Benedict XVI’s recent removal of restrictions on practicing the Latin Mass, a widespread adoption of the traditional rite faces numerous obstacles such as limited demand and a lack of trained clergy, church observers said.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland — the nation’s 16th largest with nearly 798,000 parishioners — could struggle to find more support for the Mass, where priests face away from the congregation while speaking in a language few understand.
“I don’t foresee there will be this huge outcry for it,” said Rev. Edward Burba, pastor of St. Mary Church in Akron, which offers a Latin Mass on the first and third Sundays of the month.
Among other obstacles: Few priests know Latin or how to perform the rite, and many churches no longer have Communion rails for people to kneel and receive Communion because changes made before Benedict became pope made the rails unnecessary.
A key reform that emerged from the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council was that the Mass could be celebrated in the language of the country.
In his decision earlier this month to make the Latin Mass more accessible, Benedict reversed what he saw as liberal reforms that made the rite virtually obsolete. Many less traditional Catholics objected, and some Jews were angered because the Mass contains a prayer for their conversion.
Prior to Benedict’s decree, a local bishop had to approve requests for a Latin service. Now, priests are authorized to celebrate the rite if a “stable group of faithful” requests it.
The Cleveland Diocese is exploring whether it will expand its Latin Mass offerings in light of Benedict’s decree, said spokesman Robert Tayek. Bishop Richard Lennon wants to fill the vacant position of director of the office for pastoral liturgy before making any decisions, Tayek said.
Elsewhere in the diocese, Latin Mass is offered twice on Sunday at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Cleveland.
People come from all over the surrounding areas, but there is often only one family from each town among the 150 people who attend the early morning Mass and the more than 200 who attend the noon liturgy, said the Rev. Frank Godic of Immaculate Conception.