Holy See Relaunches Reconciliation Bid with St. Pius X Fraternity

In Wake of Group´s Critical Remarks

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 2, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Still hopeful for a reconciliation, the Holy See says that recent statements by members of the St. Pius X Fraternity haven´t given due recognition to papal authority.

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, sent the letter to Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the traditionalist group founded by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, in response to statements circulated on Internet and other media by fraternity representatives.

Cardinal Castrillón is also president of the pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” created by John Paul II in 1988, following the schismatic action of illegitimate episcopal ordinations carried out by Archbishop Lefebvre in Écône, Switzerland (see Holy Father´s motu proprio “Ecclesia Dei” at zenit.org/english/archive/documents/ecclesiadei_en.htm).

The letter, dated April 25, begins with a review of relations between Cardinal Castrillón and members of the fraternity, dating back to August 2000, when members of the group made a Jubilee pilgrimage to Rome.

On that occasion, the cardinal had an impromptu meeting with three of the fraternity´s bishops (Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais and Richard Williamson). The meeting sparked hopes of a rapid solution to the conflict.

On Dec. 29, 2000, Bishop Fellay and Cardinal Castrillón had another meeting, which gave rise to discussions of a possible reconciliation.

The next day, John Paul II received the superior of the St. Pius X Fraternity in his private chapel. Then, in another meeting with Cardinal Castrillón, and in the presence of the Pope´s personal secretary, Bishop Fellay approved a protocol of agreement with the Holy See.

In the three-point protocol, Bishop Fellay expressed “his will to be fully Catholic,” his recognition of John Paul II as Successor of Peter, and his willingness to be subject to the Pope´s authority. Lastly, he accepted the Second Vatican Council “although expressing difficulties on some points.”

Bishop Fellay said that in returning to full communion with the Catholic Church he would maintain his struggle against modernism and the influence of Freemasonry.

In addition, he said that Paul VI´s Mass had moments of silence that open the way to “protestation,” and expressed formal objections to the rite of confirmation and rejected Vatican II´s concept of “religious liberty.” The bishop also expressed opposition to a form of ecumenism “which makes one lose the idea of the only Church, with the danger of a Protestant mentality.”

At the end, Cardinal Castrillón suggested to the Holy Father that if the protocol was approved, the excommunication of the St. Pius X Fraternity should be lifted. He also suggested that the fraternity be recognized as a society of apostolic life with a special rite, and that the protocol be enforced that was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Lefebvre, which the latter later rejected, proceeding with the illegal ordination of bishops.

A few days later, Bishop Fellay met again with Cardinal Castrillón to discuss the difficulties that might be created within the fraternity by the process of reconciliation. Yet, since the doctrinal issues in question did not constitute heresy, the meeting ended with Easter 2001 set as the possible date for the fraternity´s reinsertion in the Church.

However, Cardinal Castrillón´s letter explains that his openness and willingness to dialogue cannot be interpreted as “a conversion of the Church of Rome, which must now seek the ´depositum fidei´ at the heart of the St. Pius X Fraternity.”

Given the degree of progress in the negotiations, John Paul II appointed Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger, Jorge A. Medina and Louis-Marie Billé and Archbishop Julián Herranz as members of the “Ecclesia Dei” panel.

A few days later, Bishop Fellay sent the fraternity´s secretary to Rome to meet with Cardinal Castrillón, to make criticisms of the present rite of the Mass, and to call for a halt in the process of reconciliation, unless the fraternity´s excommunication were first lifted and every priest allowed to celebrate Mass with St. Pius V´s rite.

In this context, fraternity members, including Bishop Fellay, made public statements claiming the whole process was a trap and accusing the Holy See and the Pope of betraying the faith.

For example, according to statements of Bishop Fellay, quoted by Cardinal Castrillón, “it is undeniable that the dysfunctions in the Catholic hierarchy …, the lacunas, the silences, the inductions, the tolerance of errors and even of destructive actions are found even in the Curia and, unfortunately, in the Vicar of Christ.”

Bishop Fellay accuses the Pope of promoting certain mistaken forms of ecumenism that he says has a consequence: “The thousands and millions of Catholic faithful who are weakened in the faith are condemned because of these weaknesses of Rome. This is our concern.”

To a great extent, the public statements of the fraternity´s representatives attack the Pope, criticizing the way the liturgy is celebrated today. “We reject the new liturgy because it also endangers our Catholic faith,” Father Benoît de Jorna said in an interview May 15. Father Jorna is superior of the St. Pius X Seminary in Écône.

In his letter, Cardinal Castrillón noted that the statements go against the recognition of papal authority.

Cardinal Castrillón ended the letter by requesting a new meeting with Bishop Fellay, and by opening the arms of the Holy See for authentic reconciliation with the fraternity, as occurred in January when the St. John Mary Vianney Union of Campos, Brazil, returned to full union.

The traditionalist institution, present in several Latin American countries, now has the juridical status of personal apostolic administration.

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