Lords and celebrities in the United Kingdom have a message for Pope Francis: Don’t take away the Latin Mass.

In a public letter to the Times in London, the British public figures defend the controversial worship service and urge the Holy See not to try to further restrict it, according to Catholic News Agency.

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

The letter’s authors include Mick Jagger’s ex-wife, human rights advocate Bianca Jagger, and musician Julian Lloyd Webber, the brother of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

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What is the Latin Mass?

The Latin Mass, which is also known as the Traditional Latin Mass or Tridentine Mass, is a formal version of Catholic worship.

During the Latin Mass, the priest mostly faces away from the congregation and speaks in Latin, rather than in the language of the area in which the service is taking place.

It was once a common form of worship in the Catholic Church, but it fell out of favor after Vatican II, which modernized some Catholic traditions. Vatican II opened the door for more congregational participation in worship services and more modern music, per Reuters.

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Pope Francis’ restrictions on the Latin Mass

Since Pope Francis became the pope in March 2013, he’s worked to reduce the Latin Mass’s role in the Catholic Church. He’s among those who believe that clinging to the old tradition is creating tension among Catholics, as The New Yorker reported last year.

His most notable move came in July 2021, when he announced new restrictions on the Latin Mass affecting Catholic Churches around the world.

“The Pope required priests who wish to celebrate the old Mass to seek permission from their bishops, compelled the bishops to get clearance from the Vatican, ... and forbade bishops to authorize the founding of Latin Mass groups in individual dioceses, which would serve to build up the movement as an alternative form of weekly worship,” The New Yorker reported.

Proponents of the Latin Mass were angered by the new rules, and they’ve pushed back against them in multiple ways over the past three years.

For example, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker has tried to use his platform as an NFL star to push for more access to the Latin Mass.

“My success in football has given me a pedestal and I feel a responsibility to raise awareness to different issues that I think God wants me to bring to the forefront. And the Traditional Latin Mass is definitely one of them,” Butker said in February 2022, as the Deseret News previously reported.

The new letter from British lords and celebrities comes amid rumors that the Vatican is planning further action against the Latin Mass, according to Catholic News Agency.

Pope Francis presides over a mass where he bestowed the Pallium, a woolen shawl symbolizing their bond to the pope, to 42 new Metropolitan Archbishops, in St. Peter's Basilica at The Vatican, Saturday, June 29, 2024. | Domenico Stinellis

Catholic views on the Latin Mass

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Although tension over the Latin Mass regularly comes up at Vatican events and in headlines, most Catholics in the United States aren’t following the drama, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey.

Two months after Pope Francis announced the new restrictions on the Latin Mass in July 2021, around two-thirds of U.S. Catholics said they’d heard “nothing at all” about the rules, according to Pew.

“All the survey respondents who indicated they have heard at least a little about the new limitations received a follow-up question asking whether they approve or disapprove of the pope’s decision. Their opinions are divided about evenly between those who approve (9% of all Catholics) and those who disapprove (12% of all Catholics) of Francis’ actions,” Pew reported.

The survey report noted that the pope’s new guidelines on the Latin Mass did not seem to affect his popularity among American Catholics.

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