Pope Francis on Friday directly reversed a signature liturgical decision of Pope Benedict XVI, moving to strongly limit use of the old Latin Mass and spurring anger from church traditionalists. The pope, whose tenure has been characterized by deep church divisions and conservative opposition, said in a letter that his new ruling was a step “in defense of the unity of the Body of Christ.” He suggested that those who favored the old Latin Mass had been exploiting the rite as a way to “reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church.” 

Francis’s decision was remarkable, if only because he was taking a major step into the church’s liturgical wars and essentially erasing the decision of his conservative predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.