For those visiting Rome and would like to hear Mass in Latin then this ‘Latin Mass in Rome – A Complete Guide’ is the information you need. First, however, a little background and education….
Latin is the official language of the Catholic Church and has been since Pope Damasus (died in 384 AD). This language was extremely important when it came to liturgy as it meant that the whole world could go to Mass and hear the same language – hear the Mass as they heard it every Sunday in the Roman Rite in their home country – no matter what their particular country was.
This unity of language gave an observable unity of worship which itself gave a sign of the unity of the Church. This unity also stretched through time as worshippers understood that the words heard, said and sung at Mass in their time, had also been heard, said and sung for generations before them down to early Christianity. The unity was not only with the Catholic Church of the present but also the Catholic Church of the past just as the Holy Mass cuts through space and time.
However, since the Second Vatican Council, the world has seen not only a change in the Rite of the Mass (called the New Rite or Novus Ordo in Latin or more officially, the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite), but also that in practice, the language of this New Rite is most frequently heard in the local language.
Please note therefore that two changes have occurred –
- the change of form of the Roman Rite, and
- the language of that Rite.
The term “Latin Mass” is often incorrectly used to mean the Old Rite (Extra-Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite). However, the New Rite can and should be heard in Latin too.
Quoting from the Vatican’s own website (http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/details/ns_lit_doc_20091117_lingua-latina_en.html):
The Code of Canon Law (canon 928) stipulates: “The eucharistic celebration is to be carried out in the Latin language or in another language provided that the liturgical texts have been legitimately approved.” Taking into consideration the present situation, this canon translates in a concise manner the teaching of the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council.
The well-known number 36 of Sacrosanctum Concilium established the following principle:
“Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites”(§ 1).
In this sense, the Code affirms first of all: “The eucharistic celebration is to be carried out in the Latin language.”
In the sections which follow, Sacrosanctum Concilium admits of the possibility of using also the vernacular languages:
“But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters. (§ 2)
“These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language. (§ 3)
“Translations from the Latin text into the mother tongue intended for use in the liturgy must be approved by the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned above.” (§ 4)
On the basis of those subsequent sections, the Code adds: “or in another language provided that the liturgical texts have been legitimately approved.”
As can be seen, likewise according to present norms, the Latin language still holds primacy of place as that language which, based on principle, the Church prefers, even though she recognizes that the vernacular can be useful for the faithful. In the present concrete situation, liturgical celebrations in Latin have become rather rare. Hence, a motivation for using Latin is because in the Papal Liturgy (but not only in the Papal Liturgy), Latin should be safeguarded as a precious inheritance of the Western liturgical tradition. Not by chance did the Servant of God, John Paul II recall that:
“The Roman Church has special obligations towards Latin, the splendid language of ancient Rome, and she must manifest them whenever the occasion presents itself” (Dominicae cenae, n. 10).
In continuity with the Magisterium of his Predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, besides wishing that there would be a greater use of the traditional Latin language in liturgical celebrations, especially during international gatherings, wrote:
“Speaking more generally, I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant” (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 62).
Despite the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and the exhortations of the papal documents mentioned, it is still unusual to hear the Mass primarily in the Latin language. In days of globalisation and cheap travel, the timing of this change is poor to say the least and causes problems for tourists and pilgrims who come to Rome. If you wish to know more about hearing the New Rite (Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite) in the vernacular English language then please see our other article English Mass in Rome – A Complete Guide, for more information.
However, for those who wish to hear the Sacred Liturgy in the official language of the Church – Latin – whilst in Rome, please see the information below. We have also included whether the liturgical rite of expressed in Latin is of the New Rite (Ordinary Form) or Old Rite (Extra-ordinary form).
Latin Mass in Rome
1. Church of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini – Old Rite
Sunday Mass Time: 9am, 11am (solemn Mass), 6:30pm
Weekday Mass Times: 7:15am and 6:30pm
Where: Piazza della Trinità dei Pellegrini, 1, Rome
Extra Info: This church is just across the footbridge from Trastevere (Ponte Sisto) and close to Campo de’ Fiore. This parish is run by the Society of St Peter who dedicate themselves to the faithful celebration of the Extra-ordinary form of the Roman Rite (Old Rite) in Latin.
2. Papal Major Basilica of St Peter – New Rite & Old Rite
Sunday Mass Time: 10:30am (Altar of the Chair – New Rite)
Weekday Mass Times: 7:15am (Altar of St Michael – Old Rite); 5pm (Altar of the Chair – New Rite)
Where: Basilica of St Peter, Vatican City
Extra Info: The Old Rite Mass early in the morning is at the back in the far right of the Basilica past the confessionals. There’ll usually be a guard you have to pass to get there so just let him know you’re there for the Mass in the Extra-ordinary form.
3. Basilica of Sant’Anselmo (motherhouse of the Benedictine monastic order) – New Rite
Sunday Mass Time: 9am (New Rite)
Sunday Vespers Time: 19:15pm (New Rite)
Weekday Vespers Times: 19:15pm (New Rite)
Where: Basilica of Sant’Anselmo, Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, 5
Extra Info: The Benedictines not only have the Mass in Latin on Sunday but also pray the Divine Office in Latin chanted to Gregorian chant, each day.