The term is frequently used to denote the Tridentine Mass: that is, the Roman-Rite liturgy of the Mass celebrated in accordance with the successive editions of the Roman Missal published between 1570 and 1962. In most countries, this form of Mass was celebrated only in Latin, though other languages were used in a few places. In the mid-1960s, permissions were granted to celebrate most of the Tridentine Mass in vernacular languages, including the Canon from 1967 onwards.
Neither the Second Vatican Council nor the subsequent revision of the Roman Missal abolished Latin as the liturgical language of the Roman Rite: the official text of the Roman Missal, on which translations into vernacular languages are to be based, continues to be in Latin, and Latin can still be used in the celebration. The term "Latin Mass" is sometimes applied to such celebrations, which in some places are part of the normal Sunday schedule.
The Roman Rite is not the only form of liturgy celebrated in Latin. Other Latin liturgical rites used the language, and in some cases continue to do so. These include the Ambrosian Rite and the Mozarabic Rite. Some priests and communities continue to use non-Roman-Rite liturgies that have been generally abandoned, such as the Carmelite Rite and the Dominican Rite, celebrating them in Latin. Where these other Latin liturgical rites are in use, their celebration in the Latin language is sometimes referred to as "Latin Mass".
Various editions of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer have been translated into Latin: for example, for use in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge (Liber Precum Publicarum of Walther Haddon, 1560). The Church of the Advent of Christ the King, an Anglo-Catholic parish in San Francisco, regularly celebrates Mass according to the 1979 Prayer Book of its province, the Episcopal Church, in Latin.
- Historically speaking, "Latin Mass" could be applied also to the various forms of Pre-Tridentine Mass from about the year 370, when, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, the Church in Rome changed from Greek to Latin.
- "Except in the case of celebrations of the Mass that are scheduled by the ecclesiastical authorities to take place in the language of the people, Priests are always and everywhere permitted to celebrate Mass in Latin" (Redemptionis sacramentum, 112).
- For instance, the website of the Parish of Santa Maria di Caravaggio in Milan speaks of "Messa latina: la santa Messa in latino secondo il rito Ambrosiano Antico" (Latin Mass: Holy Mass in Latin in accordance with the Ancient Ambrosian Rite)