Bernard Tissier de Mallerais is one of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer on June 30, 1988 for the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX). The only Frenchman among the four Bishops, Tissier de Mallerais, the biographer of Archbishop Lefebvre currently living in Ecône, spoke to Alain Elkann, of Italian daily La Stampa. The interview was published this Sunday:
Monsignor Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, was it a great emotion for you, who took part in the foundation of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X together with monsignor Lefebvre, to receive the news of the removal of the excommunication by Benedict XVI? Was it a great joy that of being once again accepted in the house of the Father?
-"No, not in the sense of having returned to the house of the Father, because we had ever truly left it."
Now, then, what was your feeling?
-"Seeing indirectly recognized the well-founded goodness of the episcopal consecrations of 1988."
But what had happened?
-"Because His Excellency monsignor Marcel Lefebvre had handed in 1988 the episcopal consecration without 'apostolic mandate', it was followed by an ipso facto excommunication because one cannot be named a bishop without the permission of the Pope."
But how did you went through all these years?
-"Mah, this excommunication lasted for 20 years, but we did not consider it valid, because monsignor Lefebvre had named us due to a case of necessity, and the case of necessity is considered valid in canon law."
But how were you regarded by the Church?
-"We were regarded as schismatics, and I must say that we suffered for twenty years by being separated from the Church of Rome. I was a priest, and I was made a Bishop by Lefebvre precisely in 1988."
So, what happened now?
-"What happened was, in a very simple way, that, through the communication of Cardinal Re, the Pope removed the excommunication from us without any particular ceremony."
But are you now Bishops for the Pope?
-"No, we are still not [titular] Bishops because we do not have an episcopal see."
So, then, aren't all things settled?
-"It is not finished, time is needed."
And who will decide your future?
-"The Pope will decide it, with the mediation of the Roman Curia."
But, in a practical sense, what are the steps which must take place?
-"There will be doctrinal theological discussions regarding doctrines of the Second Vatican Council between the delegates of the Holy See and us."
But do you think of turning back regarding your disagreements?
-"No, absolutely not. We do not change our positions, but we have the intention of converting Rome [to our positions], that is, to lead Rome towards our positions."
And, what so you think about the declarations of another bishop who had been excommunicated alongside you, monsignor Richard Williamson, widely contested by the Jewish world?
-"I have no opinion about this."
But what do you think of what was said?
-"I think that this question does not concern me, and I have no opinion on this question."
And what will you do in the future?
-"I will remain here in Ecône."
In the Ecône seminary, of which you are the rector [RORATE note: the director of the Seminary is actually Father Benoît de Jorna], how many are the priests?
-"There are 60 seminarians here. We have other 200 in six other formation centers."
You have naturally always continued to celebrate the Latin Mass?
-"Right, the beautiful Latin Mass, with Gregorian Mass [sic]."
But even the Pope has resumed celebrating the Mass in Latin?
-"I truly have no knowledge of this, and I am not in a position to give an opinion."
How did the removal of the excommunication take place? Did the decree of the Holy See arrive unexpectedly?
-"It was for us a gift of the Holy Virgin."
A gift of the Holy Virgin in what sense?
-"Because we had given the Pope the [one million,] seven hundred thousand rosaries which we had offered as a gift from the Holy Virgin."
What did you do to obtain the remission of the excommunication?
-"We had addressed His Eminence, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia [Dei] a letter from monsignor Bernard Fellay, written also in the name of monsignor Alfonso de Galarreta, monsignor Richard Williamson, and my own, that is, of the Bishops consecrated by Lefebvre on June 30, 1988. The removal of the excommunication which dated from July 1, 1988, was requested. In that letter, monsignor Fellay affirmed, 'We are always firmly determined in our will to remain Catholic and to place all our efforts at the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept its teachings with filial disposition. We believe firmly in the Primacy of Peter and in its prerogatives, and for this the current situation makes us suffer so much.' With these words we turned to His Holiness Benedict XVI so that our canonical situation would be reconsidered."