Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pope Benedict lifts excommunication of Bishops ordained by Lefebvre

.- The Press office of the Holy See released today a statement announcing an official decree from the Congregation of Bishops lifting, upon the request of Pope Benedict XVI, the excommunication of the four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X ordained by Bishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988, in the hope that such decision will lead to “real and final unity.”

“After a process of dialogue between the Apostolic See and the Society of St. Pius X, represented by its Superior General, Most Reverend Bernard Fellay, the request formulated by the Prelate, in letter dated December 2008, on behalf of the other three bishops of the Society, Most Reverend Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Most Reverend Richard Williamson and Most Reverend Alfonso del Gallareta, has been accepted by lifting the excommunication in which they had incurred twenty years ago”.

The statement, released in Italian, recalls that because of the Episcopal consecrations of June 30 1988 performed by Marcel Lefebvre without pontifical mandate, “the four aforementioned Prelates had incurred in the excommunication latae sententiae, formally declared by the Congregation of Bishops on date July 1st 1988”.

The press release quotes the words from a letter of Bishop Fellay to the Holy Father: “we are always firmly determined in the will to remain Catholic and to put all of our energy to the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept Her teachings with filial spirit. We firmly believe in the Primacy of Peter and his prerogatives, and because of that we suffer greatly by the current situation”.

“His Holiness Benedict XVI, who has followed this process from the beginning”, the press release explains “has always tried to heal the fracture with the Society, even personally meeting Bishop Bernard Fellay, on August 29 2005. On such occasion, the Supreme Pontiff expressed his will to proceed gradually and in reasonable stages by such path and now, kindly, with pastoral concern and fatherly mercy, by means of a decree from the Congregation of Bishops dated January 21 2009, revokes the excommunication applied to the aforementioned Prelates.”

“The Holy Father has been inspired in this decision by the hope of reaching the soonest possible full reconciliation and complete communion,” the statement concludes.

The Decree

The Decree from the Congregation of Bishops says that “in a letter dated December 15 2008 addressed to His Eminence Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, by Bishop Bernard Fellay, on behalf of the other three bishops consecrated on June 30 1988, requested again the lifting of the excommunication latae sententiae formally declared by decree of the Prefect of this Congregation for Bishops dated July 1st 1988”.

The Congregation’s decree quotes the passage from Bishop Fellay’s letter released by the Vatican Press office and continues: “His Holiness Benedict XVI – fatherly sensitive to the spiritual suffering expressed by those interested as a consequence of the sanction of excommunication and trusting in the commitment expressed by them in the letter to not spare any effort to further deepen in the necessary dialogues with the Authorities of the Holy See over the questions still open, in order to reach soon a full and satisfactory solution to the original problem, has decided to reconsider the canonical situation of bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta created by their episcopal consecration”.

“With this act –the decree continues- we wish to consolidate the mutual relations of trust and intensify and provide stability to the relation of the Society of St. Pius X with this Apostolic See”.

“This gift of peace, concluding the Christmas celebrations, whishes to also be a sign to promote the unity in charity of the Universal church and accomplish to eliminate the scandal of division,” the decree continues.

“We augur that this step may be follow by the caring accomplishment of the full communion with the Church of the whole Society of St. Pius X, thus witnessing true fidelity and truthful recognition of the Magisterium and the Pope’s authority with the proof of visible unity”.

“On behalf of the faculties expressly granted by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, in virtue of the current decree, y lift the censure of excommunication latae sententiae to Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta declared by this Congregation on July 1° 1988, while I declare null of juridical consequences, as of today, the decree released in the past.”

The Decree is signed by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, on date January 21, 2009.
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