Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, will present the “Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI to Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Remission of the Excommunication of the Four Bishops Consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre.”
The letter comes weeks after Lefebvrite Bishop Richard Williamson said on Swedish television that he didn’t believe 6 million Jews died in gas chambers during World War II. The comments aired at about the same time as he and three other bishops of the Society of St. Pius X had their 20-year excommunication lifted.
The lifting of the excommunication is unrelated to the bishop’s interview and occurred in the context of Benedict XVI’s efforts to heal the schism with the Society of St. Pius X.
The letter will be released in Italian, German, French, English, Spanish and Portuguese.
The text was published today by Italian newspapers and by many Web pages in several languages.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the German episcopal conference, already responded to the document. He thanked the Pope on behalf of the bishops for the “frank” clarification, which promotes unity and inspires all believers.
One of the first journalists who leaked the document was Vatican watcher Andrea Tornielli, who writes for the Italian newspaper Il Giornale. In his blog he described the document as a text that is “beautiful, humble, and at the same time strong.”