Sunday, June 03, 2007

Le Monde: Traditionalists occupy the church of Niafles to maintain the Latin mass

Recently, the NLM brought to you the controversial story about a parish in Niafles, France that has known nothing but the classical Roman liturgy since the Council, and with the tacit approval of the local bishops of that diocese.

Le Monde reports on this story today: Des traditionalistes occupent l'église de Niafles pour maintenir la messe en latin

Here follows an unofficial translation:

Traditionalists occupy the church of Niafles to Keep the Latin Mass

By Stéphanie Le Bars

(LE MONDE, June 2, 2007) Niafles isn't Rome, but the dispute which has been running for the past few weeks in this little village in Mayenne is the sort that could soon end up being sorted out in the Vatican. A handful of traditionalist Catholics have for several days been occupying the church of this village of 300 inhabitants, situated 35 km from Laval, in order to demand that the preservation of the Latin Mass. Celebrated here in this rite for more than the last 40 years, its weekly observation has just been suspended by the bishop of Laval, Mgr Armand Maillard.

At the origin of the crisis lies the death in March of the "historic" priest of the parish, who, with the consent of successive bishops of the diocese, maintained the celebration of Mass in his church according to the Tridentine rite, in which Latin is used, and the priest's back turned to the congregation. Since then, a young traditionalist priest of the Fraternity of St Peter, with the blessing of the old priest, had taken over, to the satisfaction of the community of several dozens of people from all over the département. But at the end of May, Mgr Maillard decided to put an end to this diocesan exception, in the name of bringing Christians of different sensibilities closer together.


"The best solution for the diocese and the community was to propose a Mass in Latin in Laval for all the parishioners who want it", the diocese asserts. The alternative Mass, planned for Sunday 3rd June in a city centre church, is unlikely to be very well attended by the faithful of Niafles.

"The bishop of Laval's decision comes from a desire for centralisation", considers Matthieu Mautin, a 30-year-old father and parishioner of Niafles, who, with his fellow believers, fears the local traditionalist community will be broken up.

Strongly attached to the old rite, which was officially abandoned after the Second Vatican Council, this community is pleading for the "long-term installation" of the young priest in Niafles. "Last Sunday, there were 130 of us receiving Communion at church", assures M. Mautin, a follower of the Tridentine rite since adolescence. "This rite represents a real benefit in my spiritual life and I want my children to be able to profit from it", explains this young self-employed craftsman, who has clearly made up his mind not to give it up. "This liturgy creates a universe which makes the mystery palpable ," he explains, "and brings to the fore the action, with the various gestures of the Mass like genuflections, incensation and sprinkling with holy water. The fact that the priest is turned towards the altar signifies for us that he goes at the front of the people of God and that he is our spokesman with the Father."

In Niafles, as elsewhere, the "trad" wing of the Catholic Church is waiting impatiently for the motu proprio (decree) of the Pope providing for the liberalisation of the Latin Mass. This personal decision of Benedict XVI, announced several months ago and intended to bring the integrist Society of St Pius X of Mgr Lefebvre back into the Roman fold, would allow parish priests to decide for themselves whether to say Mass in Latin, whereas at the moment it is subject to the authorisation of the bishop.

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