For the first time in nearly three decades, an Australian bishop has celebrated the Traditional Roman rite of the Mass in his own cathedral.
The Solemn Pontifical Mass said by the Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr George Pell, was the most significant event to date in the resurgence of the Latin Mass in Australia.
The traditional Mass, which had all but died out in Australia in the rush to revolutionise the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council, is flourishing once again.
The Votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament, celebrated in St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, on 12 June, attracted around 1,000 people and involved more than 25 priests and altar servers. The Pontifical Mass has been held in Melbourne almost every year since 1992, attracting more people on each occasion.
Other bishops have celebrated the traditional Latin Mass in Australia in recent years, namely Melbourne's Bishop Denis Hart and Archbishop Barry Hickey of Perth, but never with the potent symbolism of doing so "at the throne" of their own cathedral.
Priests who assisted at the Mass included Fr Christopher Dowd OP, Fr John Parsons, Fr Ephraem Chifley OP, Fr John Walshe, Fr Vel Maglica, and Fr Gerard Diamond. Another 10 priests attended the Solemn Mass in choir including Monsignor Peter Elliott, the Episcopal Vicar for Religious Education in the Melbourne Archdiocese, and an international authority on Catholic liturgy.
The newly refurbished St Patrick's Cathedral provided a magnificent setting for the beautiful sung liturgy which included Gregorian chant and polyphony from an 18-strong choir drawn from around Australia, under the direction of choirmaster, Mr Hugh Henry, and accompanied by organist Christopher Cook.
Since the Ecclesia Dei decree of 1988, when Pope John Paul II granted full freedom for the Tridentine Rite throughout the world, the traditional Latin Mass has thrived, particularly in Western countries, such as the United States and France. In Australia, there are now traditional Mass centres in every capital city except Darwin as well as in some provincial cities.
Canberra-Goulburn is the only diocese in Australia where a bishop (Archbishop Francis Carroll) has actually appointed a priest to be specifically responsible for a traditional Mass parish community.
The congregation at the Melbourne Mass was noteworthy for the large number of families with children. Indeed, the typical Latin Mass community in Australia mirrors that of the overseas experience, with most of those attending far too young to be accused of "pre-Vatican II" sentimentalism.
Many come to the traditional Mass as a refuge from the faith- destroying experiences of some modern parishes where liturgies range from the banal and tasteless to occasions of sacrilege and 'protestant' type services.
With seemingly no sign of any attempt on the part of Australia's bishops to reform the new liturgy, numbers of young adults, particularly those with school-age children, are attending Latin Masses because of the reverence, the sense of the sacred and the timeless beauty of the liturgy and Gregorian chant.
Increasingly, however, Latin Mass communities are seeing an influx of young people in their 20s and 30s, who come to the traditional Mass out of curiosity and then fall in love with it.
The traditional Mass movement is also producing an extraordinary flowering of vocations both here and overseas. Next year there will be seven young Australian men studying at the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter centre in Pennsylvania in the United States - a newly- created seminary to train priests to celebrate sacraments according to the traditional Roman rite.
Remarkably, five of those young men come from the one small community at Lewisham in Sydney - more than some entire Australian dioceses currently have in their seminaries. The Maternal Heart of Mary Chapel at Lewisham has traditional Masses twice weekly and the community is gaining a reputation around Australia for their wonderful sung liturgies.
Other fruits of the traditional movement in Australia include the annual Christus Rex pilgrimage from Ballarat to Bendigo in the last weekend of October each year, which is gaining in popularity.