A letter of Pope Benedict XVI to all Bishops of the world on the removal of the excommunication of the Bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX) and on all aspects involving the subsequent problems related to Bishop Richard Williamson is set to be released tomorrow (Thursday). Several Italian news sources provide some excerpts of the letter this morning, and we will provide a translation as soon as possible.
The letter will announce that the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" will be placed under the authority of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (though, as of this moment, it is not clear if only regarding doctrinal matters). The Pope makes clear for Traditionalists that it is not possible to "freeze" the Magisterial authority of the Church in 1962 - but he also chides those who proclaim themselves to be "great defenders of the Council" but who do not wish to understand that Vatican II carries with it "the entire doctrinal history of the Church".
The Pope is frank with those who proclaim ecumenism, but who do not wish to follow through with it with the Fraternity: "May we consign to utter indifference a community in which there are 491 priests, 215 seminarians, ... 117 brothers, 164 sisters, and thousands of faithful? Should we truly let them drift away from the Church? Are we allowed to simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical and marginal group, from the search for unity and reconciliation?"...
"A mishap unpredictable to me was the fact that the Williamson affair was placed above the remission of the excommunication. The discreet gesture of mercy towards the four Bishops, ordained validly but not licitly, appeared unexpectedly as a completely different matter: as a denial of the reconciliation of Christians and Jews, and thus as a repeal of that which the Council had clarified for the path of the Church regarding this matter."
"I am saddened by the fact that even Catholics, who in the end should have known better how things stand, considered having to assail me with a hostility ready for attack. For this, I thank even more the Jewish friends who have helped to promptly remove the misunderstanding and to reestablish an atmosphere of friendship and trust."
Some of the concluding words are strong: "The impression is often given that our society feels the need for at least one group to which no tolerance is to be granted; which one may perfectly abuse with hatred. And if anyone - in this case the Pope - dares to approach them, he also loses his right to tolerance and he also may be treated with hatred, with no fears or reservations."
UPDATE (1300 GMT): Complete German text (Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung). Since the Holy See Press Office has announced that official versions of the letter in Italian, German, French, English, Spanish, and Portuguese will be made available tomorrow, and since some of the most relevant excerpts were already translated above, we will wait for the official release this Thursday.
Note: We have kept the above link to the version made public by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, but have decided to remove the text from the blog while the official text remains embargoed by the Holy See (until Thursday, 1100 GMT) .