Vetus Ordo Missae: Italian Catholic priests facing the revival of Latin and traditional liturgy

Soc Semiot. 2019 Jul 29;31(4):570-584. doi: 10.1080/10350330.2019.1647819. eCollection 2021.


The liturgical reform promoted by the Second Vatican Council led to a renewed way of celebrating the Mass entailing new ritual features and the drastic reduction of the use of Latin in favor of vernacular languages. Liturgical changes are still in act and present several problematic aspects fueling debates among Catholics. A significant category of interlocutors in these debates is constituted by the ordinary priests, who have both to apply the directives established by the Holy See and to engage with local communities. While the positions endorsed by ecclesiastic authorities are well known, scarce attention has been devoted to the priests' opinions and experience. This paper presents therefore the results of an ethnographic study investigating how Italian priests interpret the liturgical use of Latin in the contemporary socio-cultural context, what meanings and values they attribute to the ancient ritual, especially in comparison with the new one, and how they deal with the issue of the translation of sacred and liturgical texts.

Keywords: Latin; Second Vatican Council; liturgy; priests; ritual; semiotic ideology; translation.

Grant support

This work has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme [grant agreement No 757314].