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Philippine bishop warns against Society of St. Pius X

Members of the group causing 'animosity' in Palo Archdiocese

Philippine bishop warns against Society of St. Pius X

Archbishop John Du of Palo warns against activities of members of the Society of St. Pius X in his archdiocese. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)

Elmer Recuerdo, Tacloban City

March 13, 2017

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A Catholic bishop in the central Philippines has warned against the activities of members of the Society of St. Pius X, also known as the SSPX, in Palo Archdiocese.

Archbishop John Du of Palo said members of the group have been reported to be conducting "missions" in the archdiocese without coordination with local church officials.

In a pastoral statement released on March 12, Archbishop Du warned Catholics "to be extra cautious in dealing with [SSPX members] so as not to further the animosity currently existing."

The SSPX, an international fraternity of priests founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, is known for rejecting ecclesial reforms institutionalized by the Second Vatican Council.

In 1988, Pope John Paul II excommunicated Archbishop Lefebvre for defying Vatican instructions by ordaining four "bishops" without permission from the Holy See, as required by canon law. This created the first formal schism in the Catholic Church since 1870. The archbishop died in 1991.

Pope Benedict XVI declared that the group has no canonical status in the Catholic Church and the ministries exercised by its ministers are not legitimate.

Archbishop Du said members of the society have been going around his archdiocese bringing with them an image of Our Lady of Fatima and distributing scapulars and other devotional material.

"While there is nothing wrong with these devotions, these, however, caused confusion among our faithful," said the prelate, adding that people have been inquiring as to the authenticity of the priests.

Father Ivo Velasquez, Dean of Studies at the Sacred Heart Seminary in Tacloban City, said people reported the activities of the SSPX members to their parishes.

"There was a mission conducted by priests of that group," said Father Velasquez, adding that SSPX members did not coordinate with the archdiocese because "it has no canonical status."

"The proper way is for them to always inform and seek permission through the local ordinary or even just the parish priest, but they did not do that," said Father Velasquez.

In the pastoral statement, Archbishop Du said that "while we acknowledge that there are a lot of commonalities between this group and the Catholic faith ... we also confess without reservation that we cannot and should not participate in their celebrations of whatever nature."

Archbishop Lefebvre, who formerly headed Dakar archdiocese in the African country of Senegal, established the Society of St. Pius X in 1968 to counter changes instituted by the Second Vatican Council. He opposed the council's acceptance of religious liberty, its openness to ecumenism and its approval of liturgical reforms such as celebration of Mass in local languages. Priests of his society celebrate Mass only in Latin, as before the council.

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