From the outside, allowing the old Mass has been seen primarily as a concession to the followers of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who was excommunicated in 1988 for his intransigence on liturgical and other reforms of Vatican II.
But some Vatican officials believe that aspect has been overblown. More than making peace with Archbishop Lefebvre's followers, they said, the pope is trying to make peace with the church's own tradition.
One big clue to the pope's thinking came in his 1997 book, titled "Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977" and written when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in which he sharply criticized the drastic manner in which Pope Paul VI reformed the Mass in 1969.
The almost total prohibition of the old missal, which had been used for 400 years, was unprecedented in the history of the liturgy, he said in the book.
In effect, he said, "the old building was demolished" and a new one put in its place. Thus the liturgy ceased to be a living development and was treated as something manufactured by experts, which has caused the church "enormous harm," he said.
Even before he wrote those words, then-Cardinal Ratzinger had caused a stir when he said it made sense for the priest to celebrate Mass facing the same direction as the congregation, in the pre-Vatican II style, although he also said it would be confusing to turn the altar around once again.
Over the years, he has sharply criticized what he sees as a tendency for the worshiping community to celebrate only itself.
Today, text of a Le Figaro Magazine interview is flying around the blogosphere. The magazine's website has not yet released it online, but ..... it's "out there".
Le Figaro: Is a Decree widening the possibility of celebrating the Latin Mass according to the rite from before Vatican II (the so-called Mass of Saint Pius V) still expected?
Cardinal Bertone: The merit of the conciliar liturgical reform is intact. But both [for reasons of] not losing the great liturgical heritage left by Saint Pius V and for granting the wish of those faithful who desire to attend Masses according to this rite, within the framework of the Missal published in 1962 by Pope John XXIII, with its own calendar, there is no valid reason not to grant to every priest in the world* the right to celebrate according to this form. The authorization of the Supreme Pontiff would evidently preserve the validity of the rite of Paul VI. The publication of the motu proprio which specifies this authorisation will take place, but it will be the pope himself who will explain his motivations and the framework of his decision. The Sovereign Pontiff will personally explain his vision for the use of the ancient Missal to the Christian people, and particularly to the Bishops
Hat Tip to Rorate Coeli
Fr. Z is naturally covering this, as well