July 16 (UPI) -- In a major reversal from his predecessor, Pope Francis on Friday banned the celebration of the old Latin Mass favored by many conservatives, saying priests can only perform it with the approval of local bishops and the Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI allowed priests a lot more freedom to perform the old Latin Mass, which emphasizes a more traditional theology than the modern Mass, which is performed in the language of local parishes around the world.
"Masses celebrated according to the 1962 Missal are not to take place any longer in parishes," the Vatican said in a statement. "Bishops are to establish both the location(s) where and the days on which it will be celebrated.
"It is required that the readings be proclaimed 'in the vernacular language,' using the translations approved by the Episcopal Conferences."
Pope Francis said the old Latin Mass was being characterized as "a rejection not only of the liturgical reform but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the tradition and the 'true Church.'"
Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, rejected the criticism.
"I would challenge any apologist for this document to produce real evidence that the [Latin Mass] has undermined the unity of the church," Shaw told The Wall Street Journal.
Francis has displayed a willingness to tackle more controversial subjects during his tenure as pope, ranging from climate change to income inequality and sex abuse within the Catholic Church.
His decision Friday came two days after he left a Rome hospital, where he spent more than a week following colon surgery.