National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  May 2, 2003

Traditionalists deny rumors of reconciliation


Rumors over Easter weekend concerning a “reconciliation” with the church of three of the four bishops ordained illicitly by traditionalist Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988 and the Vatican are false, according to two of the bishops.

Lefebvre’s Society of St. Pius X rejects the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), along with its teaching on ecumenism, interfaith relations and religious liberty. The society is headquartered in Menzingen, Switzerland, and numbers 360 priests, 50 brothers, 120 sisters and 53 oblate sisters, living in 140 houses in 27 countries.

It was the ordination of four bishops without Rome’s authorization in 1988 that marked Lefebvre’s definitive break with Vatican authorities.

On April 20, the Italian daily Il Messaggero reported that three of those four bishops -- Bernard Fellay of Switzerland, Bernard Tissier of France, and Alfonso de Gallareta of Argentina -- were to be reconciled during a Latin Mass May 24 in Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major. Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who leads the Vatican’s Ecclesia Dei Commission, charged with working with devotees of the older liturgy, will celebrate that Mass.

The Il Messaggero story was picked up on April 21 by the London Times, and subsequently was reported around the world.

Fellay told NCR on April 22, however, that the story is false.

“The only thing true is the scheduled Mass on May 24. Beside this, there is nothing true in this new hoax,” Fellay said. “I guess it is a rumor circulating in the curia, a pious wish, or a test to maybe try to divide us.”

Tissier, who is currently in the United States, posted a statement on the Web site of the American branch of the society April 21.

“This is a rumor thrown by Rome in an attempt to divide us,” Tissier wrote. “We four bishops are all together and not divided. We do not seek ‘reconciliation’ with Rome unless Rome converts back to Catholic tradition, back to the traditional Catholic profession of faith.”

The head of the Italian branch of the society, Fr. Michele Simoulin, underscored this insistence on “conversion” by the Vatican before reconciliation could be considered.

“You can be sure that no bishop is disposed to accept the council or a separate accord,” Simoulin told NCR April 22.

The Lefebvrite bishops and the Vatican have been involved in on-again, off-again talks since Castrillon Hoyos was named to head the Ecclesia Dei Commission by John Paul II in April 2000.

The Pius X bishops have refused to consider reunion with Rome until the Vatican meets two conditions. First, it must acknowledge that all Roman Catholic priests have the right to celebrate Mass according to the pre-Vatican II rite; second, it must admit that the excommunications of the four bishops proclaimed in 1988 are null.

In 1988, at the time of the ordinations, John Paul II issued a decree allowing bishops to grant permission to priests to celebrate according to the older rite, but such permission remains at the bishop’s discretion. Often it is granted only on a limited, case-by-case basis.

Easter holidays at the Vatican extend through April 22. No Vatican official was available for comment on this story.

National Catholic Reporter, May 2, 2003

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