The extremely well-informed Spanish blogger Francisco José Fernández de la Cigoña (whose blog La Cigüeña de la Torre was, for instance, one of the first to predict the nomination of Cardinal Cañizares Llovera as Prefect of CDW) had hinted on the nature of the "explosive news" since last week - and since November, in fact.
Today, he confirms that his sources report "explosive news" related to the "Lefebvrists" [sic] - probably the removal or withdrawal of the excommunications of the four Bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and co-consecrated by Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer in Ecône, Switzerland, on June 30, 1988. Fernández de la Cigoña predicts the Papal act for "tomorrow" (though it is unclear how long it will take for the act to be made public).
The other signs that things are on the move were reported here yesterday.
UPDATE (2248 GMT). Italian religious journalist Andrea Tornielli has just confirmed in his blog the increasing reports: the Pope has already signed the withdrawal of excommunications, and his act will be made public in the next few days.
The decree in which Benedict XVI decided to cancel the excommunication of the four new Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988 will be made public in the next few days. Now, other than the four (Bernard Fellay, Alfonso de Gallareta [sic - Galarreta], [Bernard] Tissier de Mallerais, and Richard Williamson), Lefebvre himself and the Brazilian Bishop [Antonio] de Castro Mayer who participateed at the ceremony, had been excommunicated.In that occasion, after having been near reconciling with the Holy See (and after having dealt with then-Cardinal Ratzinger and having signed a protocol of intentions), Archbishop Lefebvre abruptly decided for the rupture and, by consecrating four of his young priests Bishops, accomplished a schismatic act [sic], justified by him due to the necessity of allowing his Fraternity of Saint Pius X to survive. Now, with a truly magnanimous gesture, receiving the request proposed by Fellay, Benedict XVI has decided to remove the excommunication. An excommunication which, it should be noticed, has always and exclusively applied only to the consecrating Bishops (Lefebvre and de Castro Mayer, both deceased for a long time) and the four consecrated Bishops, but not the Lefebvrist [sic] priests or the faithful.
Rorate note: Did Lefebvre accomplish a schismatic act, as Tornielli states in his note? Maybe, but, at this moment, whether it really was a schismatic act or an act with the mere appearance of schism (but not actually schismatic, due to mitigating circumstances of a subjective nature) will be made clear by the precise wording of the papal decree.
UPDATE 2 (Jan. 22, 0730 GMT): Paolo Luigi Rodari also confirms the news in his report for Il Riformista this morning, adding the information that:
"It [the decree] will come out in the next few days, probably by Sunday. The President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio wrote and signed it [the decree], by the Pope's will."
UPDATE 3 (Jan. 22, 1700 GMT) Interesting excerpts of the article posted today by the ultra-"Progressive" French religious website Golias, with confirmation of informations already known and some new data.
On the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the convocation of Vatican II (January 25, 1969)THE POPE LIFTS THE EXCOMMUNICATION OF THE LEFEBVRIST BISHOPS!...According to our information, the decree regarding this decision has already been signed. ...According to our sources, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos and Mgr. Perl [Vice-Presidentof the commission], Luxembourger prelate who will very soon replace him at the top of the "Ecclesia Dei" Commission, were the ones who wrote, together with an Italian prelate, Mgr Mario Marini [Secretary of the Commission], a text of reconciliation in the sense of a removal of the excommunications of the four Lefebvrist Bishops.Also according to our information, it would not be a full and complete recognition of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, but a simple removal of the sanction of excommunication; a way to recognize the good faith and ecclesial sense of the "schismatics", while full agreement on the future juridical status of the Fraternity Saint Pius X is not yet complete. Some believe that the Fraternity of Saint Pius X could be erected as a personal prelature of the Pope, similar to that of the Opus Dei. However, those responsible for the latter view with some concern this prospect, which would remove [the exclusivity of] their exceptional status, which has been theirs since 1983, following the decision by Pope John Paul II.For the time being,as has been his practice, Pope Benedict XVI advances little by little, and the question of the future statute of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X will come on its time... The essential [aspect] for him today is to treat the Lefebvrist bishops as if they had not been excommunicated, which is a completely Roman way of at least "relativizing", without, however, contradicting oneself completely!It is clear, lastly, that this decision of Pope Benedict XVI, probably made official next January 24, will make a number of Catholic communities react in a critical manner, particularly in France and Switzerland.
UPDATE 4 (Jan. 22, 2000 GMT): From Italian news agency ASCA, the prudent position of the SSPX, while it awaits an official publication:
22-01-09VATICAN: LEFEBVRISTS - NO COMMENT BEFORE THE PUBLICATION OF THE HOLY SEE TEXT(ASCA) - Roma, 22 Jan - "In the absence of an official declaration by the Holy See, the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius [X] does not discuss the rumors on a possible withdrawal of the excommunication. There will not be any communication before the publication of a text by the Vatican": it is the response of Father Alan Lorans, director of the information services of the schismatic [sic] Fraternity founded by Archbishop Lefebvre ... .