The competencies of the Ecclesia Dei Pontifical Commission for dialogue with the Lefebvrists Saint Pius X Fraternity have been integrated by Pope Francis in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, by a Motu Proprio dated January 17, 2019, and published in Italian by the Holy See on January 19. Therefore, the Pontifical Commission is now suppressed.
This transfer of competencies responds to a question of the Doctrine of the Faith, on December 15, 2017, approved by the Pope the following November 24 and validated in a Plenary Session of this Dicastery.
According to the Italian media, the Fraternity also desired the suppression of the Commission. Hence it leads somewhat to a “normalization” of the doctrinal dialogue with the ad hoc Dicastery.
To be noted also is the spiritual significance of the publication at the height of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: a page is turned and another opens on a renewed dialogue.
Four Main Reasons
Pope Francis attributes to a specific “Section” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the tasks incumbent to Ecclesia Dei since 1988, charged by Saint John Paul II with dialogue with the Saint Pius X Fraternity. The latter brings together some 150,00 faithful and 650 priests in 70 countries.
The Pope explained the decision with four main reasons. Firstly, because of “the change of circumstances that led Saint Pope John Paul II “ to institute it.
Secondly, because of the “stability” found today by communities having made the choice to celebrate according to the 1962 rite: the Commission had the mission to accompany them.
Thirdly, by the fact that the questions with which the Commission was charged are “primarily doctrinal.”
Fourthly, the Pontiff hopes that the ecclesial communities become more “aware” of the doctrinal ends: of which the integration with the Doctrine of the Faith is a decisive sign.
From the Liturgy to the Doctrine
In this sense, the reform began with Benedict XVI, who moved the liturgical question towards a doctrinal question, and the Commission was already under the responsibility of this Dicastery since 2009.
In his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI, in fact, authorized the celebration of the Tridentine Liturgy in force after the reforms of Saint John XXIII in 1962. The communities having adopted this rite, within the communion with Rome, were under the responsibility of the Ecclesia Dei Commission that, however, remained charged with the dialogue with the Saint Pius X Fraternity: a double competence in two different directions.
In his Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Regarding the Lifting of the Excommunication of Four Bishops Consecrated by Monsignor Lefebvre, of March 12, 2009, Benedict XVI, considering that the remaining questions to be treated were “of an essentially doctrinal nature,” and concerning “above all the acceptance of Vatican Council II and of the Post-Conciliar teachings of the Popes,” had already announced the attachment of the Commission to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Again in 2009, after the lifting of the excommunication of four Bishops ordained by Monsignor Lefebvre, Pope Benedict XVI as consequence reorganized this Commission by a second Motu Proprio, Ecclesiae Unitatem, and placed it under the responsibility of the ad hoc Dicastery.
Vigilance and Promotion
Pope Francis is inscribed under the same dynamic by suppressing the Commission, henceforth relayed to a “section” of this Dicastery. He recalls that its objective is to “facilitate the full ecclesial communion” of all those that, although linked to the Pius X Fraternity, want to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church, keeping their own spiritual and liturgical traditions.”
Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio now specifies that this Section will be instituted at the heart of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in order to pursue “the work of vigilance, of promotion and of protection” entrusted up to now to the Ecclesia Dei Commission, henceforth suppressed.