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VATICAN-SSPX Jun-25-2008 (490 words) xxxi

Vatican presses traditionalists with reconciliation expiration date

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican has pressed the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X to accept five conditions, including respect for the pope and his authority, as part of a reconciliation offer.

The conditions were communicated by letter to the head of the society, Bishop Bernard Fellay, by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who has conducted an on-again, off-again dialogue with the traditionalists for several years.

One of the conditions set forth in Cardinal Castrillon's letter was that the society respond favorably by the end of June. Vatican sources said the deadline indicated some Vatican impatience with the dialogue that began in 2000 and has yet to yield results.

The Vatican offer was first reported by the Italian newspaper, Il Giornale, and followed a meeting June 4 between Cardinal Castrillon and Bishop Fellay.

Vatican sources confirmed that the reconciliation proposal included the possibility of establishing a "personal prelature" or a similar canonical structure for the society, which would allow the society a certain autonomy.

Last year, Pope Benedict XVI widened the possibility for use of the Tridentine rite, the form of Mass used before the Second Vatican Council. That was a long-standing request of the society.

But Bishop Fellay has continued to criticize the Vatican on other matters, and has expressed his society's continued opposition to several teachings of Vatican II.

In April Bishop Fellay said the time was not right for reconciliation with the Vatican, because church leaders have not taken steps to reverse the "crisis" introduced by Vatican II.

One source said the new Vatican offer signaled that the Vatican was not willing to continue dialogue with the traditionalist society indefinitely. There was some hope, but not much optimism, that the society would accept the proposal, he said.

The conditions laid out by the Vatican were:

-- A commitment to a response that is proportionate to the generosity of the pope.

-- A commitment to avoid any public intervention that does not respect the person of the pope and that could "be negative for ecclesial charity."

-- A commitment to avoid "the pretext of a magisterium superior to the Holy Father" and to not present the society in opposition to the church.

-- A commitment to demonstrate the will to act honestly in full ecclesial communion and in respect of the pope's authority.

-- A commitment to respect the date, fixed for the end of June, to respond positively. This deadline is described as a "necessary condition" for the preparation for a reconciliation.

The society broke with the Vatican in 1988 when its founder, the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained four bishops against papal instructions; Bishop Fellay was one of those ordained.

At that time, the Vatican said those involved in the ordinations were excommunicated. Bishop Fellay has asked the pope to repeal the decree of excommunication as one major step in the reconciliation process.


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