Monday, June 23, 2008

Tornielli: Agreement between Holy See and Lefebvrians - the Countdown [UPDATE]

Andrea Tornielli, well respected Vaticanista of il Giornale has posted the following on his blog (NLM translation):

The countdown has begun for the agreement between the Fraternity St. Pius X founded by French bishop Marcel Lefebvre and the Holy See, as I write on il Giornale today. The Lefebvrians, who asked for the lifting of the excommunication, will have to respond by June 28 to proposals submitted on behalf of Benedict XVI by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. These are five points which have to be signed, and once they have been clarified, the Fraternity will be able to reenter into full communion with Rome. It is a unique opportunity: the Lefebvrians have for a long time demanded the liberalisation of the ancient missal - and Pope Ratzinger with the Motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum cura" has restored full citizenship to pre-conciliar rite - and the "catechesis" which in recent times comes from papal Masses, with the recovery of some traditional elements, is undeniable. The Fraternity must accept the II Vatican Council and the full validity of the post-conciliar liturgical rite (both points were already signed by Monsignor Lefebvre himself in 1988) and as for its [the Fraternity's future] canonical structure, it could be framed as a "prelature". It is known, however, that there is internal resistance: this Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior of the Lefebvrians, will have to try to overcome in the coming days, during the [Fraternity's] general chapter. Now that the old Mass has been liberalized - albeit with many difficulties and cases of blatant disobedience - many traditionalist faithful do not understand why the Fraternity does not make an agreement with Rome returning fully into Catholic communion. Circumstances so favourable in all likelihood will not come again.

Of course, the issues of religious liberty and ecumenism are still on the table, and a recent letter of Bishop Fellay (cf. here on Rorate Cæli) gives, humanly speaking, little hope for a return to full communion, as Tornielli himself, in the comments to his blog entry, acknowledges. Nevertheless if this is accurate, we are entering into a momentous week in the life of the Church, and a prayer assault for a successful resolution according to the most holy will of God is surely in order.


As announced, here is a translation of the il Giornale article:

In the relations between the Holy See and the Lefebvrians the countdown has begun: by this 28 June, the Fraternity of St. Pius X, founded by the French Archbishop who would not suffer the post-conciliar liturgical reform, will in fact have to decide whether to accept the five conditions proposed by the Vatican in order to reenter into full communion with Rome. Some days ago, the superior of the Lefebvrians, Bishop Bernard Fellay, met with Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, president of the Commission Ecclesia Dei, which deals on behalf of Benedict XVI with negotiations with the traditionalist group. Fellay, who previously had written to the Pope asking for the revocation of the excommunication imposed by John Paul II in 1988 to Lefebvre and the four new bishops that he had wanted to consecrate without the consent of the Holy See (among them Fellay himself), has received a letter with the five points set by the cardinal [Castrillón] and will discuss them during the next chapter of the fraternity, to be held at the end of the month.

Never like at this moment the negotiations have come close to an agreementwhich would heal the mini-schism which had been created now two decades ago, allowing the full reentering of the Lefebvrians into the Catholic communion. Among the points that the Holy See asked to sign there would be, according to the indiscretions gathered, the acceptance of the II Vatican Council and the declaration of full validity of the Mass according to the reformed liturgy: two conditions that Lefebvre had already signed with the then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1988. The Vatican, for its part, offers the traditionalist group a canonical framework similar to that of Opus Dei, namely a [personal] "prelature", which would allow the Fraternity to continue its activities and to train its seminarians.

The march of rapprochement was started in 2000, when the Lefebvrians made a Holy Year pilgrimage to Rome. It was followed by a brief audience granted by Pope Wojtyla to Monsignor Fellay and the beginning of the long and laborious negotiations with Cardinal Castrillón. Many things have changed since then however. The Lefebvrians asked, before making any step towards an agreement, that the old preconciliar missal, which fell into disuse after the liturgical reform, be liberalised. The new pope, Benedict XVI, particularly sensitive to these issues, a year ago published the Motu proprio declaring the full citizenship of the old Mass allowing it in every parish, in fact stripping the bishop of the possibility of prohibiting it. The application of the new papal directives has not been easy, there are a lot of cases of resistance - some blatant, as is known - but it is beyond doubt that by declaring the existence of an extraordinary Roman rite (the old one) and an ordinary (the reformed one), the Pope has authorized throughout the Church and without restrictions the celebration of the Tridentine Mass. Moreover, Ratzinger has reintroduced the Cross at the centre of the altar, has begun to distribute communion to the faithful kneeling, has restored ancient vestments: all signals that go in the direction of emphasizing the continuity of tradition.

Conditions this favourable for a reentering into full communion will in all likelihood not repeat themselves. Many faithful, now that they have obtained the Mass according to the ancient rite, do not understand why the Fraternity does not definitively make peace with Rome. The Lefebvrians have come to realize what is happening, even if Fellay has some problems of internal resistance. The choice is whether to make an agreement and reenter into full communion with the Holy See, or rather to remain a small separate body with the risk of turning into a little sectarian and uninfluential group.

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