Statements & Developments
- 01-24-09: Decree of the Congregation for Bishops Card. Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops:
… His Holiness Benedict XVI – paternally sensitive to the spiritual unease manifested by the interested party due to the sanction of excommunication and trusting in the effort expressed by them in the aforementioned letter of not sparing any effort to deepen the necessary discussions with the Authority of the Holy See in the still open matters, so as to achieve shortly a full and satisfactory solution of the problem posed in the origin – decided to reconsider the canonical situation of Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta, arisen with their episcopal consecration.
With this act, it is desired to consolidate the reciprocal relations of confidence and to intensify and grant stability to the relationship of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X with this Apostolic See. This gift of peace, at the end of the Christmas celebrations, is also intended to be a sign to promote unity in the charity of the universal Church and to try to vanquish the scandal of division.
It is hoped that this step be followed by the prompt accomplishment of full communion with the Church of the entire Fraternity of Saint Pius X, thus testifying true fidelity and true recognition of the Magisterium and of the authority of the Pope with the proof of visible unity.
- 01-26-09: Roundup of responses from various sources to the repealing of the excommunications, courtesy of Rorate Caeli.
- 01-28-09: Remarks of Pope Benedict XVI on the remission of the excommunications on the SSPX hierarchy, followed by an expression of solidarity with the Jewish people:
… Precisely in the accomplishment of this service of unity, which qualifies, in a specific way, my ministry as Successor of Peter, I decided, a few days ago, to grant the remission of the excommunication in which the four bishops ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988, without pontifical mandate, had incurred. I fulfilled this act of fatherly mercy because those prelates repeatedly manifested to me their deep suffering for the situation in which they found themselves. I hope that this gesture of mine will be followed by the solicitous effort by them to accomplish the ulterior steps necessary to accomplish full communion with the Church, thus testifying true fidelity and true recognition of the Magisterium and of the authority of the Pope and of the Second Vatican Council.
While I renew with affection the expression of my full and unquestionable solidarity with our brothers receivers of the First Covenant, I hope that the memory of the Shoah leads mankind to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man. May the Shoah be for all a warning against forgetfulness, against denial or reductionism, because the violence against a single human being is violence against all. No man is an island, a famous poet writes. The Shoah particularly teaches, both old an the new generations, that only the tiresome path of listening and dialogue, of love and of forgiveness lead the peoples, the cultures, and the religions of the world to the hoped-for goal of fraternity and peace in truth. May violence never again crush the dignity of man!
- 01-28-09: Superior General of the SSPX: Bishop Williamson forbidden to speak on political or historical matters January 27, 2009:
We view this matter with great concern, as this exorbitance has caused severe damage to our religious mission. We apologize to the Holy Father and to all people of good will for the trouble it has caused.
It must remain clear that those comments do not reflect in any way the attitude of our community. That is why I have forbidden Bishop Williamson to issue any public opinion on any political or historical matter until further notice.
- 01-28-09: Note of the District Superior for Germany of the SSPX:
The banalization of the genocide of the Jews by the Nazi regime and of its horror are unacceptable for us.
The persecution and murder of an incalculable number of Jews under the Third Reich touches us painfully and they also violate the Christian commandment of love for neighbor which does not distinguish ethnicities.
I must apologize for this behavior and dissociate myself from such a view.
Such dissociation is also necessary for us because the father of Archbishop Lefebvre died in a KZ [concentration camp] and because numerous Catholic priests lost their lives in Hitler’s concentration camps.
- 01-29-09: Interview granted by the Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), Bishop Bernard Fellay, to French Catholic Magazine Monde & Vie.
- 01-30-09: Letter of apology to Pope Benedict XVI from Bishop Bernard Williamson:
Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems.
For me, all that matters is the Truth Incarnate, and the interests of His one true Church, through which alone we can save our souls and give eternal glory, in our little way, to Almighty God. So I have only one comment, from the prophet Jonas, I, 12:
“Take me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”
Please also accept, and convey to the Holy Father, my sincere personal thanks for the document signed last Wednesday and made public on Saturday. Most humbly I will offer a Mass for both of you.
- Interview with Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission published today in Italian national daily Corriere della Sera.
- Note of the Secretariat of State Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone L’Osservatore Romano, February 5, 2009:
… The positions of Mons. Williamson on the Shoah are absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father, as he himself remarked on the past January 28, when, referring to that brutal genocide, he reaffirmed his full and unquestionable solidarity with our Brethren, receivers of the First Covenant, and affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide must lead “mankind to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man”, adding that the Shoah remains “for all a warning against forgetfulness, against denial or reductionism, because the violence against a single human being is violence against all”.
Bishop Williamson, for an admission to episcopal functions in the Church, will also have to distance himself, in an absolutely unequivocal and public manner, from his positions regarding the Shoah, unknown to the Holy Father in the moment of the remission of the excommunication.
The Holy Father asks to be joined by the prayers of all the faithful, so that the Lord may enlighten the path of the Church. May the effort of the Pastors and of all the faithful increase in support of the delicate and burdensome mission of the Successor of Apostle Peter as “custodian of unity” in the Church.
- Italian District of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX) has announced the expulsion of Father Floriano Abrahamowicz, the priest responsible for Northeast Italy. Rorate Caeli February 6, 2009.
- Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos in the eye of the storm interview granted by the director of the Holy See Press Office and head of Radio Vaticana, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, to French daily La Croix. February 5, 2009.
- Williamson “was removed from his charge as head of the seminary” of Nuestra Señora Corredentora of La Reja (Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina) – confirmed by Father Christian Bouchacourt to Argentinian daily La Nación. February 9, 2009.
- Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre (March 10, 2009):
Even though many Bishops and members of the faithful were disposed in principle to take a positive view of the Pope’s concern for reconciliation, the question remained whether such a gesture was fitting in view of the genuinely urgent demands of the life of faith in our time. Some groups, on the other hand, openly accused the Pope of wanting to turn back the clock to before the Council: as a result, an avalanche of protests was unleashed, whose bitterness laid bare wounds deeper than those of the present moment. I therefore feel obliged to offer you, dear Brothers, a word of clarification, which ought to help you understand the concerns which led me and the competent offices of the Holy See to take this step. In this way I hope to contribute to peace in the Church. …
- Commentary on the Letter by Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ, Head of the Press Office of the Holy See March 12, 2009:
The “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre” is definitely an unusual document and deserves all our attention. Never before in his Pontificate has Benedict XVI expressed himself in such a personal manner and intensity on a controversial subject. There isn’t the slightest doubt: this Letter bears his mark, from beginning to end. …
- Communiqué of Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, in response to Pope Benedict’s letter.
Further Resources, Commentary and Discussion
- Q-and-A Explains Standing of 4 Lefebvrite Bishops explanation prepared by the episcopal conference of England and Wales on the lifting of the excommunication of four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X.
- Lefebvre Group Step Hailed as Unity Week Success: Spokesman Reflects on Lifting of Excommunication Remarks of Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office. Zenit News January 25, 2009.
- With Lefebvrists, It’s Just the Beginning: Ecclesia Dei Member Considers Lifting of Excommunication Remarks of Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, archbishop of Bordeux. Zenit News January 27, 2009.
- Rome’s Reconciliation: Did the Pope heal, or deepen, the Lefebvrist schism?, by George Weigel. Newsweek January 26, 2009.
- Misconceptions: What the “lifting” of the SSPX excom’s means for people, by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (What Does The Prayer Really Say?)
- “Your Move” and Lefebvre Part II, by Amy Welborn. Charlotte Was Both
No More Excommunication for the Lefebvrists. But Peace Is Still Far Off, by Sandro Magister. Chiesa. January 28, 2009.
- Lefebvre movement: long, troubled history with Judaism, by John Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter January 26, 2009.
- The Lefebvrite case: What was the Vatican thinking?, by John Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter January 30, 2009.
- The Jewish Reaction to the Pope’s Welcoming Back Holocaust Denying Bishop: Disproportionate! Rabbi Irwin Kula. Huffington Post February 2, 2009.
- “The SSPX bishops should resign”: The Regensburg Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller about the prohibition of the Holocaust denier, Williamson in his diocese, and what he wants from the Society of St Pius X ZEIT ONLINE. February 3, 2009. [Translated by Catholic Church Conservation].
- “Enough”, by Paul Zummo (CrankyCon). February 3, 2009.
- Double Disaster at the Vatican: Of Governance, and of Communication, by Sandro Magister. Chiesa. February 4, 2009.