March 23, 2001
volume 12, no. 82

Vatican Mum on Talks with Traditionalist Group...

...While Pope Meets with U.S. Presbyterian Delegation

    VATICAN, Mar. 22, 01 ( -- The Vatican press office has confirmed widespread reports of new talks between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X, the schismatic traditionalist group, but refused to comment on the substance of any negotiations.

    "I can confirm that there have been formal contacts between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X," said papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls. "These contacts, which were desired by the Holy Father, are still continuing. For the moment, I have no other information."

    The contacts between the Holy See and the traditionalist group have been well known for several months. However, the issue gained new prominence last week when the Spanish daily La Razon reported that the negotiations were close to producing an agreement that could bring the Society of St. Pius X back into full communion with the Holy See. La Razon also said that the Pope might create a new "personal prelature" to serve the traditionalist movement. (Since the canonical creation of the "personal prelature," only one group-- Opus Dei-- has been given that recognition.) However, neither Navarro-Valls nor other Vatican officials made any comment on the Spanish report.

    Last August, about 5,000 traditionalist pilgrims came to Rome on a Jubilee pilgrimage, led by Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior of the Society of St. Pius X. Since that date, there have been discussions involving Bishop Fellay and Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos is also the head of the Ecclesia Dei commission, charged with the implementation of the Pope's efforts to provide adequate pastoral care for loyal Catholics devoted to the traditional Mass.

    The Society of St. Pius X, founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, opposes some teachings of Vatican II, most notably the Declaration on Religious Freedom, and insists on the celebration of the traditional Tridentine-rite Mass. In 1988, when he consecrated new bishops (including Bishop Fellay) for this traditionalist movement in defiance of direct orders from Rome, Archbishop Lefebvre was excommunicated, and the tensions between Rome and the Society of St. Pius X became an open split.

    Meanwhile, Pope John Paul II met on Thursday with a delegation of American Presbyterian leaders, and told them that he had been delighted by the participation of other Christian groups in the celebration of the Jubilee year.

    The joint celebrations, the Pontiff said, "confirm the common work for Christian unity." He acknowledged the painful history of divisions within the body of Christianity, and said that all believers should work together to bring an end to that scandal.

March 23, 2001
volume 12, no. 82
News from ROME
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