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Vatican makes new attempt to re-open talks with SSPX

Just weeks ago, negotiations looked dead and buried. But with the expulsion of the most troublesome member of the SSPX and an all-new proposal from a senior Vatican official, they may resume.

  • Andrea Tornelli
  • Vatican City
  • January 21, 2013
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The Holy See has made another reconciliatory gesture toward the Society of St. Pius X; the Vice President of Ecclesia Dei, Augustin Di Noia, to whom Benedict XVI entrusted the Church’s scorching dossier on the Lefebvrians, has written to Bernard Fellay. The letter was addressed to all priests in the Fraternity and pointed out a path towards resuming a dialogue which had been interrupted last June.

Readers will recall that after years of doctrinal debates, in June 2012, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith delivered a doctrinal preamble approved by Ratzinger to the Lefebvrian superior. The signing of this preamble was the condition for an agreement being reached between the Catholic Church and the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and would have fulfilled the canonical requirements that would have brought the Fraternity back into full communion with Rome. The Holy See was expecting a response within weeks. But a response never came.

The Lefebvrians examined the Vatican proposal and there were pre-existing internal tensions which led to the expulsion of Richard Williamson, one of the four bishops ordained by Mgr. Lefebvre in 1988. Williamson had unfortunately become famous for his denial of the Holocaust and the killing of Jews in gas chambers. The path taken, however, seemed to have been interrupted and the statements made by both parties did not appear conciliatory: the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Gerhard Müller, strongly criticised the Lefebvrian position, while the debate is still going over Fellay’s controversial statements regarding “the Church’s enemies,” who apparently opposed an agreement with Rome – the Lefebvrian bishop included the “Jews” among them

Di Noia’s gesture is new. The American Dominican archbishop is a prepared theologian and a realist. In the letter he sent to Fellay before Christmas, asking the superior of the SSPX to send it on to all the Fraternity’s priests, Di Noia proposed a method for resuming dialogue, in a final attempt to break the deadlock and banish the problems which appear objectively difficult to overcome.

According to authoritative French Vatican correspondent Jean Marie Guenois, it was Benedict XVI’s idea to send the letter which he apparently re-read and authorised. The letter, Guenois informs, speaks of the strong need to “overcome” existing “tensions”.

The eight-page document touches on three key points: the current state of relations, the spirit of these relations and a method for resuming the interrupted dialogue between the Church and the SSPX. In terms of the interpretation of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, one of the most controversial points in the dialogue, Di Noia considers relations still “open” and “full of hope”, despite some recent declarations by the Lefebvrians.

This is probably the first time the Vice President of Ecclesia Dei officially and with such authority recognised the existence of a fundamental impasse in relations with the SSPX and the lack of progress made regarding the interpretation of the Council.

Full Story: Lefebvrians: Church extends a hand to the SSPX in an eight-page letter

Source: Vatican Insider/La Stampa

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