VATICAN CITY, FEB. 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI did not know Bishop Richard Williamson’s position as a denier of the Holocaust when he lifted the prelate’s excommunication in order to facilitate dialogue with the Lefebvrites, affirmed the Vatican.
A statement issued today by the Vatican Secretariat of State addressed the recent decree by which “the excommunication of four prelates of the Fraternity of St. Pius X were lifted.” It also looked at the “reductionist declarations on the Shoah from Bishop Williamson of that same fraternity.”
The Vatican statement clarified that the decree lifting the excommunication came in response to repeated petitions from the superior-general of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, and the Holy Father’s desire to “remove an impediment that adversely affected the opening of a door to dialogue.”
It added: “Now [the Pope] expects that the same willingness be expressed by the four bishops, in total adhesion to the doctrine and discipline of the Church.”
The statement clarified: “The lifting of the excommunication has freed the four bishops from a most grave canonical penalty, but it has not changed in any way the juridical situation of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, which for the moment does not enjoy any canonical recognition in the Catholic Church.
“Neither do the four bishops, though liberated from the excommunication, have a canonical function in the Church and they do not licitly exercise a ministry in it."
The statement pointed out some requirements for the official recognition of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, and underlined the commitment of the Holy See in resolving the problems that caused a fracture.
The statement went on to reiterate the Pope’s firm rejection of Bishop Williamson’s opinion on the Shoah, stating that the prelate would have to “distance himself in an absolutely unmistakable and public way from his position” in order to be reinstated to episcopal service.
It further recorded that the prelate’s viewpoint on the Shoah “was unknown to the Holy Father in the moment of the lifting of the excommunication.”
The Pontiff’s own words from last week were repeated, when the Holy Father “reaffirmed his full and indisputable solidarity with our brother recipients of the First Covenant, and affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide should induce ‘humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart.'”