Rorate Caeli

Nel mare ora regna una grande calma

On the Feast of Saint John Bosco, it is impossible not to remember one of his most famous stories: his narrative of the "Dream of the Two Columns". Don Bosco told his dream to several listeners, including Don [Blessed] Michele Rua, on the evening of May 30, 1862.

Imagine yourself to be with me on the seashore, or better, on an isolated rock, and not to see around you anything that is not sea. On the whole of that vast surface of water, you see an innumerable fleet of ships in battle array. The prows of the ships are formed into sharp, spear-like points so that wherever they are thrust they pierce and completely destroy. These ships are armed with cannons, with lots of rifles, with incendiary materials, with other firearms of all kinds, and also books, and advance against a ship very much larger and higher than themselves and try to dash against it with the prows or burn it or in some way to do it every possible harm.

As escorts to that majestic fully equipped ship, there are many smaller ships, which receive commands by signal from it and carry out movements to defend themselves from the opposing fleet. In the midst of the immense expanse of sea, two mighty columns of great height arise a little distance the one from the other. On the top of one, there is the statue of the Immaculate Virgin, from whose feet hangs a large placard with this inscription: "AUXILIUM CHRISTIANORUM"; on the other, which is much higher and bigger, stands a HOST of great size proportionate to the column and beneath is another placard with the words: "SALUS CREDENTIUM".

The supreme commander of the large ship is the Roman Pontiff. He, seeing the fury of the enemies and the evils among which his faithful find themselves, determines to summon around himself the captains of the smaller ships to hold a meeting and decide what is to be done.

All the captains come aboard and gather around the Pope. They hold a meeting, but, in the meantime, the wind and the waves gather in storm, so they are sent back to run their own ships. There comes a short lull; for a second time the Pope gathers the captains around him, while the flag-ship goes on its course. But the frightful storm returns. The Pope stands at the helm and all his energies are directed to steering the ship towards those two columns from whose summits hang many anchors and strong hooks linked to chains.

All the enemy ships move to attack it, and they try in every way to stop it and to sink it: some with books and writings or inflammable materials, of which they are full; others with firearms, with rifles and with rams. The battle rages ever more relentlessly. The enemy prows thrust violently, but their efforts and impact prove useless. They make attempts in vain and waste all their labor and ammunition; the big ship goes safely and smoothly on its way. It happens that, struck by formidable blows, the large ship suffers large, deep gaps in its sides; but no sooner is the harm done that a gentle breeze blows from the two columns and the cracks close up and the gaps are stopped immediately.

Meanwhile, the guns of the assailants are blown up, the rifles and other arms and prows are broken; many ships are shattered and sink into the sea. Then, the frenzied enemies strive to fight hand to hand, with fists, with blows, with blasphemy and with curses.

Suddenly, the Pope, gravely wounded, falls down. Immediately, those who are with him run to help him and lift him up. A second time the Pope is struck, he falls again and dies. A shout of victory and joy rings out amongst the enemies; from their ships an unspeakable mockery arises.

But hardly is the Pope dead than another Pope takes his place. The pilots, having met together, have elected the Pope so promptly that the news of the death of the Pope coincides with the news of the election of the successor. The adversaries begin to lose courage.

The new Pope, putting the enemy to rout and overcoming every obstacle, guides the ship right up to the two columns and comes to rest between them; he fastens it with a light chain that hangs from the bow to an anchor of the column on which stands the Host; and with another light chain which hangs from the stern, he fastens it at the opposite end to another anchor hanging from the column on which stands the Immaculate Virgin.

At this point, a great convulsion takes place. All the ships that until then had fought against the Pope's ship are scattered; they flee away, collide, and break to pieces one against another. Some sink, and try to sink the others, while the boats that had fought gallantly for the Pope also bind themselves to those two columns. Over the sea a great calm reigns now.
Translation provided by "Forty Dreams of Saint John Bosco" (TAN Books),
corrected according to the accepted Italian text (web example).


The following event announcement was sent to us in the past week.

1. LMS Residential Training Conference for Priests Wishing to Learn the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Traditional Latin Mass) at Ushaw College, Durham.

The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales (LMS) is organising a residential training conference for priests wishing to learn the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Traditional Latin Mass) at Ushaw College, Durham, one of England’s most prestigious seminaries.

The conference will run from Monday 20 April to Thursday 23 April 2009 (i.e. Low Week) and will feature Traditional liturgies in Ushaw’s magnificent neo-Gothic St Cuthbert’s Chapel together with a Gregorian Chant schola and polyphonic choir.

Expert tuition in the celebration of Mass in the Usus Antiquior will be provided on a small group basis. There will be guest lecturers and all participants will receive 1962 Missals and altar cards.

Daily devotions will include Lauds, Vespers, Benediction and Rosary.

The subsidised fee to participants is only £85.00 which includes full board and accommodation. Priests are asked to register by Monday 2 March.

Further details and registration forms can be obtained from the LMS office (Tel: 020 7404 7284) or downloaded from the LMS website,

Paul Waddington, one of the organisers, said, “This is the first time the LMS has organised such a training conference in the north of England. I hope the laity will tell their priests about this wonderful opportunity to learn the Usus Antiquior in the setting of one of England’s finest Catholic seminaries.”

The LMS hopes to make a further announcement about a training conference in the south of England in the near future.

Latin Mass Society, 11-13 Macklin Street, London WC2B 5NH
Tel: 020 7404 7284

From now on, we will post on Saturday all announcements eventually sent to us during the preceding week.


We have learned from a source in daily contact with Bishop Williamson the following information:

"His Excellency is alive and well and rumors of a tumor are not true and a very unfortunate attempt to draw Bishop Williamson out into the public arena for some sort of comment or interview."

Apology Letter of Bishop Richard Williamson

Mgr Richard Williamson

To His Eminence Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos

Your Eminence

Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems.

For me, all that matters is the Truth Incarnate, and the interests of His one true Church, through which alone we can save our souls and give eternal glory, in our little way, to Almighty God. So I have only one comment, from the prophet Jonas, I, 12:

"Take me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you."

Please also accept, and convey to the Holy Father, my sincere personal thanks for the document signed last Wednesday and made public on Saturday. Most humbly I will offer a Mass for both of you.

Sincerely yours in Christ 

+Richard Williamson

Written to Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos on January 28, 2009.

Cardinal Castrillón:
Relevant declarations to Corriere della Sera

Excerpts of an article published today in Italian national daily Corriere della Sera[PDF]:

"[Card. Castrillón:] When I delivered the signed decree to Bishop Fellay, we knew nothing of the interview, it had been a few days before."

And at that moment?
"[Card. Castrillón:] Evidently, at that moment [when the interview with Bishop Richard Williamson was known to Vatican authorities], the decree was already in the hands of the interested party. I would rather not enter into details, because they go beyond my competence."
"[Card. Castrillón:] Full communion will come. In our discussions, Bishop Fellay recognized the Second Vatican Council, he recognized it theologically. Only a few difficulties remain...[sic]"

Maybe on Nostra Aetate, the declaration which represented a turning point in the relationship with the Jews?
"[Card. Castrillón:] No, that is not a problem. It involves discussing aspects such as ecumenism, liberty of conscience...[sic]"
Source: News Monitoring service of the Italian Chamber of Deputies
Tip: Papa Ratzinger Blog

New Fellay interview:
"The eventual separations will be minimal"

Interview granted by the Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), Bishop Bernard Fellay, to French Catholic Magazine Monde & Vie. The noticeable line is Fellay's declaration that not all doctrinal positions have to be exhaustively discussed with no end in sight - what is needed is a "sufficient clarification" of doctrinal issues.
Did you expect, Your Excellency, this removal of the excommunication concerning you?

[Fellay:] I expected it since 2005, after the first letter requesting the lifting of the excommunication which I had sent at the request of Rome itself. Because it is clear that Rome did not ask for this letter in order to refuse to lift the excommunication. As for the moment when it took place, I did not expect it. These past few months, after the ultimatum affair [link], even after it had been minimized, we were mostly cool [in the mutual relations]. Then, I wrote the letter of November 15, which is mentioned in the decree and in my letter to the faithful... [sic]

Is this decree a sign of the Pope's will?

I ascribe it first of all to the Holy Virgin. It is a manifest sign, with an almost immediate response. I had just decided to go to Rome to deliver the result of the Rosary bouquet we had launched at Lourdes with this explicit intention when I received a call from Rome inviting me to go there.

Is the satisfaction displayed by you today tempered by the remainder of the path to follow?

It is too early to tell. An act of the greatest relevance, for which we are truly grateful, has just taken place, but it is very difficult to assess it at this moment. We still do not view all its ramifications. There still is a lot of work, but we truly have great hope for a restoration of the Church.

From what moment dates this change in your relationship with Rome?

From the accession of the current pope. I first evoked the Holy Virgin but, at a human level, there should be no fear of ascribing to Benedict XVI what has just taken place. It is the beginning of something, which had already begun with the Motu proprio [Summorum Pontificum]. I think that the Pope appreciates the work that we do.

In this development, this movement, some have held that you departed too late. Do you believe today that others, especially inside the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, may hold that you are departing too soon?

I cannot rule out everything, but, in case there are separations, they will be extremely minimal.

Do you believe that your situation will be first settled at a practical level?

Up to now, our roadmap has been to clarify first the doctrinal problems - even if it does not mean settling everything, but obtaining a sufficient clarification - or we risk doing things incompletely. Or it may end up badly.
And do you believe that, beyond Rome, your contacts will intensify?

It is the goal, as I explained in Rome, by saying that the situation, as we propose it, is certainly temorary, but it is pacifying, and that it will allow all souls of good will to catch up. This will thus be done gradually. And this will also depend on the reaction on the other side. But there is no a priori, the only a priori is that of Truth and of Charity.

Transcript: Metablog; Journalist: Olivier Figueras; Tip: reader

More Papal moves towards unity
A Personal Prelature for the Traditional Anglican Communion?

The Catholic Australian weekly The Record publishes this week this most relevant report: the Traditional Anglican Communion could be received as a Personal Prelature of the Catholic Church before the end of the year.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has decided to recommend the Traditional Anglican Communion be accorded a personal prelature akin to Opus Dei, if talks between the TAC and the Vatican aimed at unity succeed, it is understood.

The TAC is a growing global community of approximately 400,000 members that took the historic step in 2007 of seeking full corporate and sacramental communion with the Catholic Church – a move that, if fulfilled, will be the biggest development in Catholic-Anglican relations since the English Reformation under King Henry VIII.

TAC members split from the Canterbury-based Anglican Communion headed by Archbishop Rowan Williams over issues such as its ordination of women priests and episcopal consecrations of women and practising homosexuals.

The TAC’s case appeared to take a significant step forwards in October 2008 when it is understood that the CDF decided not to recommend the creation of a distinct Anglican rite within the Roman Catholic Church – as is the case with the Eastern Catholic Churches - but a personal prelature, a semi-autonomous group with its own clergy and laity.

Opus Dei was the first organisation in the Catholic Church to be recognised as a personal prelature, a new juridical form in the life of the Church. A personal prelature is something like a global diocese without boundaries, headed by its own bishop and with its own membership and clergy.

Because no such juridical form of life in the Church had existed before, the development and recognition of a personal prelature took Opus Dei and Church officials decades to achieve.

An announcement could be made soon after Easter this year. It is understood that Pope Benedict XVI, who has taken a personal interest in the matter, has linked the issue to the year of St Paul, the greatest missionary in the history of the Church.

The Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls could feature prominently in such an announcement for its traditional and historical links to Anglicanism. Prior to the English Reformation it was the official Church of the Knights of the Garter.

The TAC’s Primate, Adelaide-based Archbishop John Hepworth, told The Record he has also informed the Holy See he wants to bring all the TAC’s bishops to Rome for the beatification of Cardinal Henry Newman, also an Anglican convert to the Catholic Church, as a celebration of Anglican-Catholic unity.

Tip: American Catholic & T. Edwards

"The Second Vatican Council will not be negotiable"

Statement by the Permanent Council of Bishops of France concerning the lifting of the excommunications

The lifting of the excommunication of the four bishops of the Fraternity Saint Pius X by the Holy See is drawing numerous reactions in Catholic opinion as well as that of society.

The coinciding of this announcement with the revelation of the position Bishop Williamson, denying the tragedy of the extermination of the Jews, has caused a condemnation that can not be sustained. The bishops of France strongly condemn the outrageous and unacceptable words of Bishop Williamson. They reiterate their commitment of dialogue and friendship with the French Jewish community.

They bear in mind that Benedict XVI continues to carry out his commitment to a fruitful relationship between Jews and Christians. They strongly emphasize that the lifting of the excommunication is not a pardon. It is the starting point on a long road that will require a precise dialogue. In any case, the Second Vatican Council will not be negotiable. No ecclesial group can serve as a substitute for the magisterium.

The bishops have welcomed the willingness of the Holy Father to go to the limit in offering an invitation of reconciliation. They are in communion with him in the exercise of episcopal vigilance. They express their support and gratitude to the priests, deacons, religious and laity who make up the Catholic Church in France[…]

Permanent Council of Bishops of France

Pope speaks about SSPX in General Audience

From the Holy Father at the end of today's General Audience:

Before greeting the Italian pilgrims, I still have three announcements.

The first: I have learned with great joy the election of Metropolitan Kirill as new Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias. I invoke upon him the light of the Holy Ghost for a generous service to the Russian Orthodox Church, trusting him to the special protection of the Mother of God

The second.

In the homily pronounced on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of my Pontificate, I said that it is the "explicit" duty of the Pastor "the call to unity", and, commenting upon the Gospel words regarding the miraculous catch of fish, I said, "although there were so many, the net was not torn"; I continued after these Gospel words, "Alas, beloved Lord, with sorrow we must now acknowledge that it has been torn!". And I continued, "But no – we must not be sad! Let us rejoice because of your promise, which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path towards the unity you have promised. Let us remember it in our prayer to the Lord, as we plead with him: yes, Lord, remember your promise. Grant that we may be one flock and one shepherd! Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!"

Precisely in the accomplishment of this service of unity, which qualifies, in a specific way, my ministry as Successor of Peter, I decided, a few days ago, to grant the remission of the excommunication in which the four bishops ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988, without pontifical mandate, had incurred.
I fulfilled this act of fatherly mercy because those prelates repeatedly manifested to me their deep suffering for the situation in which they found themselves. I hope that this gesture of mine will be followed by the solicitous effort by them to accomplish the ulterior steps necessary to accomplish full communion with the Church, thus testifying true fidelity and true recognition of the Magisterium and of the authority of the Pope and of the Second Vatican Council.

The third announcement.

While I renew with affection the expression of my full and unquestionable solidarity with our brothers receivers of the First Covenant, I hope that the memory of the Shoah leads mankind to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man. May the Shoah be for all a warning against forgetfulness, against denial or reductionism, because the violence against a single human being is violence against all. No man is an island, a famous poet write. The Shoah particularly teaches, both old an the new generations, that only the tiresome path of listening and dialogue, of love and of forgiveness lead the peoples, the cultures, and the religions of the world to the hoped-for goal of fraternity and peace in truth. May violence never again crush the dignity of man!
Benedict XVI
General Audience
January 28, 2009

Note of the District Superior for Germany of the SSPX

As District Superior of the Society [of Saint Pius X] in Germany, I am very troubled by the words pronounced by Bishop Williamson here in this country. 

The banalization of the genocide of the Jews by the Nazi regime and of its horror are unacceptable for us.

The persecution and murder of an incalculable number of Jews under the Third Reich touches us painfully and they also violate the Christian commandment of love for neighbor which does not distinguish ethnicities.

I must apologize for this behavior and dissociate myself from such a view.

Such dissociation is also necessary for us because the father of Archbishop Lefebvre died in a KZ [concentration camp] and because numerous Catholic priests lost their lives in Hitler's concentration camps.

Stuttgart, January 27, 2009

Father Franz Schmidberger

Father Schmidberger was the Superior-General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X at the time of the consecrations of 1988.

From the website of the German District of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX) (27.01.2009, 2235 CET)

Superior General of the SSPX:
Bishop Williamson forbidden to speak
on political or historical matters

Communiqué of the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X,
Bishop Bernard Fellay 

It has come to our attention that Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of our Society, granted an interview to a Swedish network. In this interview, he also commented on historical issues, especially on the genocide of Jews by the National-Socialist regime. It is obvious that a bishop speaks with religious authority solely on matters of faith and morals. Our Society claims no authority over historical or other secular matters. 

The mission of the Society is the offering and restoration of authentic Catholic teaching, as handed down in the dogmas. We are known, accepted, and appreciated worldwide for this. 

We view this matter with great concern, as this exorbitance has caused severe damage to our religious mission. We apologize to the Holy Father and to all people of good will for the trouble it has caused.

It must remain clear that those comments do not reflect in any way the attitude of our community. That is why I have forbidden Bishop Williamson to issue any public opinion on any political or historical matter until further notice.

The constant accusations against the Society have also apparently served the purpose of discrediting our mission. We will not allow this, but will continue to preach Catholic doctrine and to offer the Sacraments in the ancient rite.

Menzingen, January 27, 2009 

+ Bishop Bernard Fellay
Superior General
From the website of the German District of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX) (27.01.2009, 1620 CET). 

Note (Jan. 28): There were some slight alterations to the original text after we posted our translation. Original Text. Current Text.

Kirill of Smolensk elected new Patriarch of Russia

To no one’s surprise, Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, locum tenens of the Patriarchate of Moscow since the death of Alexy II in December and head of the same Patriarchate’s powerful Department for External Relations, has been elected Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

The new Patriarch was born Vladimir Gundyaev in 1946, and has been varyingly described as a liberal and a conservative, as a moderniser and as a traditionalist. The Russian press reports that he was persecuted even as a child for his faith (he reportedly refused to join the Communist Party’s Young Pioneers). He has hosted a weekly TV program since 1994, and is reputed to be a good preacher and a prolific author with a firm grasp of both pastoral needs and international issues. On the other hand, there have been reports of his involvement in improper financial dealings from 1994-1997 related to the importation of cigarettes into Russia (hence the nickname, “Tobacco Metropolitan”). And some Orthodox have accused him of less-than-edifying behavior towards his rivals in the hierarchy.

There are expectations of more cordial relations between Moscow and Rome now that Kirill (who met Pope Benedict XVI in December 2007) has been elevated to the Patriarchate; indeed, he has faced sharp criticism in Russia for allegedly being too close to the Catholics and for continuing to advocate ecumenical dialogue with Rome. At the same time, it should be kept in mind that Kirill spent part of 2008 expanding the presence of the Russian Orthodox Church in Latin America and striking up alliances with various leftist regimes there (apparently in the interest of getting them to help with the construction of more Russian Orthodox churches). He has also made clear that there will be no doctrinal compromises with Rome.

Although he is known to enjoy cordial relations with the Kremlin, he is expected to establish greater independence from it – a position already foreshadowed when the Moscow Patriarchy refused to support the recent war with Georgia. Shortly before the patriarchal elections, he called for "mutual non-interference" between Church and State.

Of interest to Catholic Traditionalists is Kirill’s public opposition to calls for liturgical reforms in the Russian Orthodox Church – including, among other things, recent proposals within that Church to replace Church Slavonic with the vernacular (modern Russian) in the liturgy. Another point of interest: he is a protégé and spiritual son of the late Metropolitan Nikodim Rotov, who collapsed and died during an audience with Pope John Paul I (who gave Nikodim absolution)

Fellay: the first interview
"I am confident"

The Swiss daily Le Temps published today the first interview granted by Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), after the remission of excommunications made public last Saturday.

The full text:

- [Patricia Briel, Le Temps:] Do you condemn the negationist declarations of Bishop Williamson?

- [Fellay:] It does not belong to me to condemn them. I do not have the competence for this. But I deplore that a Bishop may have given the impression of involving the Fraternity with a view that is absolutely not ours.

- According to observers, the Pope's decision could create divisions within the Fraternity. All the faithful and priests would not be ready for unity.

- [Fellay:] I do not fear it. There may always be a dissonant voice here or there. But the zeal with which the faithful prayed the Rosary to ask for the removal of the excommunications says a lot about our union; 1 700 000 rosaries were said in two and a half months.

- In your letter to the faithful of January 24 [PDF], you display your desire to examine, with Rome, the deeper causes of the "unprecedented crisis which afflicts the Church today". What are these causes?

- [Fellay:] In the essence, this crisis is caused by a new approach to the world, a new view of man, that is, an anthropocentrism which consists of an exaltation of man and a forgetfulness of God. The arrival of modern philosophies, with their less precise language, has led to confusion in theology.

- Is the Second Vatican Council also responsible for the Church crisis, in your opinion?

- [Fellay:] Not all comes from the Church. But it is true that we reject a part of the Council. Benedict XVI himself condemned those who claim the Spirit of Vatican II to demand an evolution of the Church in a break with its past.

- Ecumenism and religious liberty are at the center of the criticisms you make of Vatican II

- [Fellay:] The quest for unity of all in the Mystical Body of the Church is our dearest desire. Nonetheless, the method that is used is not appropriate. Today, there is such a focus on the points which unite us to other Christian confessions that those which separate us are forgotten. We believe that those who have left the Catholic Church, that is, the Orthodox and the Protestants, should come back to it. We conceive ecumenism as a return to the unity of Truth.

Regarding religious liberty, it is necessary to distinguish two situations: the religious liberty of the person, and the relations between Church and State. Religious liberty implies liberty of conscience. We agree with the fact that there is not a right to force anyone to accept a religion. As for our reflection on the relations between Church and State, it is based on the principle of tolerance. It seems clear to us that there where there are multiple religions, the State should be watchful of their good coexistence and peace. Nevertheless, there is but one religion that is true, and the others are not. But we tolerate this situation for the good of all.

- What will happen if the negotiations fail?

- [Fellay:] I am confident. If the Church says today anything that is in contradiction with what it taught yesterday, and if it forced us to accept this change, then it must explain the reason for it. I believe in the infallibility of the Church, and I think that we will reach a true solution.

Solemn Requiem Mass

A Requiem Mass, celebrated solemnly in the presence of His Grace, the Archbishop of Melbourne (the Most Rev'd Denis Hart), was offered at Saint Aloysius' Church, Caulfield on 26th January.

The Mass was offered for the repose of the soul of Mr Harold Tattersall of Sydney. The celebrant of the Mass was Mr Tattersall's son, Father Glen Tattersall, a priest of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Assisting in choir was the auxiliary bishop of Melbourne, the Most Rev'd Peter Elliott, the Vicar-General, Monsignor Tomlinson, and a large number of clergy and seminarists.

Below are some images from the Mass, taken by Chris Steward.

Do you approve?

The French daily Le Figaro is running an online poll asking "Do you approve of Benedict XVI's decision to lift the excommunications of the fundamentalist (sic) bishops?" The question is accompanied by the following bias-provoking editorial remark:

"On Saturday the pope lifted the excommunication of four bishops who had been so burdened since 1988. Among them, Bishop Richard Williamson, who has been noted as a denier: He has questioned the existence of gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps."

If you approve of the Pope's action you may go here and vote “oui”.

What will the SSPX have to do?
"Vatican II is not a dogma of Faith," Roman sources say

In her article on six questions related to the Decree which remitted the sanction of excommunication of the four bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), the Vatican correspondent for French newspaper La Croix (the Catholic-owned daily), Isabelle de Gaulmyn includes some well-known facts.

However, there is some new information in the text, which we present below.

1. Possible news conference by Cardinal Castrillón:
"This week, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, which is in charge of this reintegration, should explain it [the future possibilities] publicly to the press."

2. Letter of Cardinal Bertone. Regarding the question on whether this "reintegration encompasses an acknowledgment of the teachings of Vatican II", De Gaulmyn reveals that the decree was the object of a letter sent by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, to Curial authorities:
"This is the whole problem. The decree published on Saturday does not speak of Vatican II, but it evokes indirectly the 'problem posed at the origin'. Not more than, according to our information, the letter sent by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to the authorities of the Curia, in which he makes this gesture known."

3. So, what about Vatican II? At least for the moment there does not seem to be any desire from those responsible for the discussions on the Vatican side to demand from the SSPX the express acceptance of one specific Council (the Second Vatican Council or, for instance, the First Lyon Council), since they may all be implictly included in more generic expressions. In the words of De Gaulmyn:
"The refusal of the teachings of the Council is the true cause of the rupture of the Integrists. For the constitution of the Institute of the Good Shepherd [IBP] by former members of the Fraternity, in 2006, its members explicitly vowed 'to have a positive attitude of study and communication with the Apostolic See, avoiding all controversy, (...) regarding certain points taught by the Second Vatican Council or regarding subsequent reforms of the liturgy and of the law, and which seem to us hardly reconcilable with Tradition.'

"Nothing of the sort this time, according to our sources: 'Vatican II is not a dogma of faith', they say. From the moment in which the bishops and priests of the Fraternity recognize the Church, and the Magisterium of the Pope, that will suffice as an implicit acknowledgment."
Tip: Le Forum Catholique

Fifty years ago:
The Gathering Storm

In an interview to Il Tempo, published today, 93-year-old Archbishop Loris Capovilla (who was secretary to Pope John XXIII) recalls the momentous day:
Let us come to January 25, 1959. Images of a historic day for the Catholic Church.
«After Mass at home, the Pope, silent and reserved, goes to Saint Paul outside the Walls. Perhaps ten people [including Cardinal Tardini] know that, after Mass [at Saint Paul's], he will remain with the Cardinals, in Consistory, in the Chapter Hall of the Benedictine Abbey. Which takes place after 1 PM ... .».
In his pronouncement to the Cardinals, the Lombard Pope intertwined the challenges of modern progress and the need to strengthen ancient order:

All of this - we mean, this progress - while distracting from the pursuit of higher gifts, weakens the energies of the spirit, leads to the softening of the structure, of the discipline, and of the good ancient order, to great detriment of that which constituted the strength of the resistance of the Church and of her sons to errors, which, in reality, always in the history of Christianity, led to fatal and pernicious divisions, to spiritual and moral decay, to the ruin of nations.

This assessment awakens in the heart of the humble priest, which the manifest choice of Divine Providence led, though most unworthy, to this highness of the Supreme Pontificate, it awakens - we say - a resolution influenced by the memory of some ancient forms of doctrinal affirmation and of wise orientations of ecclesiastical discipline which, in the history of the Church, at times of renewal, brought forth fruits of extraordinary efficacy, for the clarity of thought, for the compactness of religious unity, for the livelier fire of Christian fervor, which we continue to recognize, also in reference to the welfare of life down here, an abundant wealth «de rore caeli et de pinguedine terrae» (Gen. XXVII, 28).

Venerable Brothers and Our Dear Children! We pronounce before you, certainly trembling somewhat out of emotion, but also with humble resolve of purpose, the name and the proposal of the double celebration: of a Diocesan Synod for the City [of Rome], and that of an Ecumenical Council for the universal Church.
Blessed John XXIII
Allocution to Cardinals
Saint Paul outside the Walls - January 25, 1959


The publication of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum led at least one Italian bishop to tears.

Now, a popular Italian theologian (Gianni Gennari, a "Conservative Catholic" and laicized priest, now married, who is a columnist for Catholic daily Avvenire, under the pseudonym "Rosso Malpelo") cannot hold back his own tears.

Genari: "I am disappointed, stunned, scandalized"

«A swipe at John Paul II. It is the complete debacle of the Church»

by Laurence Figà-Talamanca


"A swipe at John Paul II", who, up to the end, "begged" Anti-Conciliar Bishop Marcel Lefebvre not to consecrate new bishops. Gianni Gennari, former priest of dissent, is, to say little, "troubled", and he does not spare words in condemning the removal of the excommunication imposed by Pope Wojtyla, on June 30 1988 [sic], to the four Lefebvrist [sic] bishops: "It is a tragedy, the complete debacle of the Church!". "I am ashamed by the result of this act. I am disappointed, stunned, scandalized!", affirms Gennari to Ansa [news agency], holding back his anger and his tears with difficulty, and declaring he has a wide documentation of what took place at the time, "including a telegram of then-Cardinal Ratzinger" to Lefebvre.
"I don't know if the Pope himself should also be ashamed, that belongs to his conscience. He is a great theologian, and I do not understand what may have happened. It displeases me because I like him," adds the former priest, now married and a well-liked journalist in the columns of Avvenire under the pseudonym of "Rosso Malpelo".

"I don't know if anyone has fooled the Pope, but in this case there is no place for the mercy of Christ, because mercy is used for those who repent". But the Lefebvrists have never repented, even "for 40 years they have spoken of 'bastard popes', 'bastard Mass', they even called Paul VI a bastard, spewing venom and calumny."

Poor Gennari: he does not know what just hit him.

Meanwhile, Bishops speaking anonymously to Il Messaggero cannot stop complaining about the Pope's decision:
Even though the gesture is motivated by the will to achieve unity, the consequences of the entry of the ultra-Traditionalists who "do not believe in Vatican II" and who have fought for the rehabilitation of the Latin Mass according to the ancient rite will lead "inevitably to some imbalance". 
The liturgical experts sound more than skeptical and agree."I ask myself" - a prelate declares - "at what cost will the reentry come. I fear that it will consolidate what two years ago was only an extraordinary rite. The entry of the Lefebvrists cannot but undermine the path made since Vatican II. Moreover, it is like ignoring the work of Paul VI and John Paul II". Pope Montini did what he could to understand the gesture of Archbishop Lefebvre, while Pope Wojtyla, before reaching the decision of excommunicating him, promoted a kind of internal query within the episcopate, ending at the 1984 indult. "The gesture of Pope Ratzinger will cause a certain instability" - a Cardinal adds. "It will expand even the movement towards the ancient rite, creating ulterior uneasiness, at a theological and pastoral level, in the parishes."

Decree of the Congregation for Bishops

By way of a letter of December 15, 2008 addressed to His Eminence Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Bp. Bernard Fellay, also in the name of the other three Bishops consecrated on June 30, 1988, requested anew the removal of the latae sententiae excommunication formally declared with the Decree of the Prefect of this Congregation on July 1, 1988. In the aforementioned letter, Bp. Fellay affirms, among other things: "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."

His Holiness Benedict XVI - paternally sensitive to the spiritual unease manifested by the interested party due to the sanction of excommunication and trusting in the effort expressed by them in the aforementioned letter of not sparing any effort to deepen the necessary discussions with the Authority of the Holy See in the still open matters, so as to achieve shortly a full and satisfactory solution of the problem posed in the origin - decided to reconsider the canonical situation of Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta, arisen with their episcopal consecration.

With this act, it is desired to consolidate the reciprocal relations of confidence and to intensify and grant stability to the relationship of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X with this Apostolic See. This gift of peace, at the end of the Christmas celebrations, is also intended to be a sign to promote unity in the charity of the universal Church and to try to vanquish the scandal of division.

It is hoped that this step be followed by the prompt accomplishment of full communion with the Church of the entire Fraternity of Saint Pius X, thus testifying true fidelity and true recognition of the Magisterium and of the authority of the Pope with the proof of visible unity.

Based on the faculties expressly granted to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, in virtue of the present Decree, I remit from Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta the censure of latae sententiae excommunication declared by this Congregation on July 1, 1988, while I declare deprived of any juridical effect, from the present date, the Decree emanated at that time.

Rome, from the Congregation for Bishops, January 21, 2009.

Card. Giovanni Battista Re
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops

Translation: RORATE


The excommunication of the bishops consecrated by His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, on June 30, 1988, which had been declared by the Congregation for Bishops in a decree dated July 1, 1988, and which we had always contested, has been withdrawn by another decree mandated by Benedict XVI and issued by the same Congregation on January 21, 2009.
We express our filial gratitude to the Holy Father for this gesture which, beyond the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, will benefit the whole Church. Our Society wishes to be always more able to help the pope to remedy the unprecedented crisis which presently shakes the Catholic world, and which Pope John Paul II had designated as a state of “silent apostasy.”
Besides our gratitude towards the Holy Father and towards all those who helped him to make this courageous act, we are pleased that the decree of January 21 considers as necessary “talks” with the Holy See, talks which will enable the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X to explain the fundamental doctrinal reasons which it believes to be at the origin of the present difficulties of the Church.
In this new atmosphere, we have the firm hope to obtain soon the recognition of the rights of Catholic Tradition
Menzingen, January 24, 2009
+Bernard Fellay

Con lettera del 15 dicembre 2008 indirizzata a Sua il Sig. Cardinale Dario Castrillón Hoyos, Presidente della Pontificia Commissione Ecclesia Dei, Mons. Bernard Fellay, anche a nome degli altri tre Vescovi consacrati il giorno 30 giugno 1988, sollecitava nuovamente la rimozione della scomunica latae sententiae formalmente dichiarata con Decreto del Prefetto di questa Congregazione per i Vescovi in data 1° luglio 1988. Nella menzionata lettera, Mons. Fellay afferma, tra l'altro: "Siamo sempre fermamente determinati nella volontà di rimanere cattolici e di mettere tutte le nostre forze al servizio della Chiesa di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo, che è la Chiesa cattolica romana. Noi accettiamo i suoi insegnamenti con animo filiale. Noi crediamo fermamente al Primato di Pietro e alle sue prerogative, e per questo ci fa tanto soffrire l'attuale situazione".

Sua Santità Benedetto XVI - paternamente sensibile al disagio spirituale manifestato dagli interessati a causa della sanzione di scomunica e fiducioso nell'impegno da loro espresso nella citata lettera di non risparmiare alcuno sforzo per approfondire nei necessari colloqui con le Autorità della Santa Sede le questioni ancora aperte, così da poter giungere presto a una piena e soddisfacente soluzione del problema posto in origine - ha deciso di riconsiderare la situazione canonica dei Vescovi Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson e Alfonso de Galarreta sorta con la loro consacrazione episcopale.

Con questo atto si desidera consolidare le reciproche relazioni di fiducia e intensificare e dare stabilità ai rapporti della Fraternità San Pio X con questa Sede Apostolica. Questo dono di pace, al termine delle celebrazioni natalizie, vuol essere anche un segno per promuovere l'unità nella carità della Chiesa universale e arrivare a togliere lo scandalo della divisione.

Si auspica che questo passo sia seguito dalla sollecita realizzazione della piena comunione con la Chiesa di tutta la Fraternità San Pio X, testimoniando così vera fedeltà e vero riconoscimento del Magistero e dell'autorità del Papa con la prova dell'unità visibile.

In base alle facoltà espressamente concessemi dal Santo Padre Benedetto XVI, in virtù del presente Decreto, rimetto ai Vescovi Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson e Alfonso de Galarreta la censura di scomunica latae sententiae dichiarata da questa Congregazione il 1° luglio 1988, mentre dichiaro privo di effetti giuridici, a partire dall'odierna data, il Decreto a quel tempo emanato.

Roma, dalla Congregazione per i Vescovi, 21 gennaio 2009.

Card. Giovanni Battista Re
Prefetto della Congregazione per i Vescovi

New Thread: Removal of the excommunications of SSPX Bishops
3 Updates: Decree of the Cong. for Bishops?
Confirmed:Vatican Statement SATURDAY

1. New article by Andrea Tornielli in Friday's edition of Il Giornale: Saturday or, at most, next week; Fellay met Cañizares in Rome.

The removal of the excommunication, decided by Pope Ratzinger, will be published already Saturday, or at most next week, after the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The four Bishops at this hour wait in silence ... .

The Superior-General of the Fraternity, Bishop Bernard Fellay, first signatory of the letter with which it was requested of the Pontiff to remove the excommunication, in the past few days was in Rome and also met Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, new Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.
2. UPDATE (1630 GMT) Paolo Luigi Rodari, as Andrea Tornielli, reaffirms the news, and expects the removal of the excommunications to be made public tomorrow or, at the latest, on Monday.

[A]s you know, soon (tomorrow or, at the latest, on Monday) the Pope will revoke the excommunications of the four schismatic Lefebvrist [sic] Bishops. The Decree will be signed by the Congregation for Bishops, the opinion of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts having been heard.
Meanwhile, The Remnant discloses a January 21 letter in which the Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, distances the FSSPX/SSPX from any specific privately held opinion.

3. UPDATE (1945 GMT): The Austrian Catholic news website confirms that, "The Vatican will publish, on Saturday [January 24], a statement on the lifting of the excommunications of the Bishops of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X"; informs that there is no "reliable information" on the content of the Vatican communiqué. [Tip: Exsultet]

4. UPDATE (2010 GMT): French religious news agency I.Media reports the following (by way of news agency ASCA):

Citta' del Vaticano, Jan 23 - L'Osservatore Romano will publish tomorrow an "explanatory note" on the decision of Pope Benedict XVI to revoke the excommunication of the four schismatic Bishops ordained by Traditionalist Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988. ...

The act of Pope Ratzinger will be presented in the daily paper of the Holy See as "an act of mercy by the Pope".

Removal of the excommunications
A Guide

All signs now seem to indicate that the removal, withdrawal, or annulment of the excommunications of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (+ 1991), Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer (+ 1991), and of the four Bishops consecrated by them for the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX) in Ecône, Switzerland, on June 30, 1988 is imminent. The Papal act on the matter has almost certainly been signed, and it will be made public shortly: read Surprise 2 - UPDATED; and Surprise 1.

RORATE CÆLI has been covering this matter since its beginning. Here is a guide of posts for those who wish to understand the situation.

1. The Events of 1988. The events which led to the consecrations of June 30, 1988, and to the subsequent reaction by the Holy See are summed up in two posts: 20 years on: Reliving the Events of 1988, Part I and Part II.

2. The Process of Regularization of the FSSPX. The process is clearly following the One-Two-Three Strategy, first explained by this blog here. The first step was accomplished, first, by the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, and will be completed with the removal of the excommunications.

3. Rumors on the papal decree. Rumors regarding the removal of excommunications have been reported at least since the Jubilee discussions of the Holy See and the SSPX, begun during the Pontificate of John Paul II. The current procedure for the removal of the excommunications began in earnest in the audience granted by Pope Benedict to the Superior General of the FSSPX, Bishop Fellay, in August 29, 2005.

As Fellay himself described,
At a certain point [during the audience], the Pontiff himself put the matter on the table: pondering on the state of the Church in countries such as France and Germany, Benedict XVI recognized as perfectly well-grounded the question of the subsistence of the state of necessity in such countries... [sic] The Pope said this, not we.
In November 2007, a few months after Summorum Pontificum, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei", declared that
the lifting of the excommunication weighing on the bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of St. X since 1988 "can happen" but that it definitely “depends on them."
Castrillón and Fellay set the final process in motion in their meeting of June 4, 2008, when the conditions agreed by both parties were written down. Fellay soon sent the official response of the Fraternity.

In late October 2008, the Fraternity launched its Rosary Crusade for the withdrawal of the excommunications, and in early November it was rumored that the decree was already on the Pope's desk. (More information on the events of the past few months in posts labeled Decision 2008.)

A surprise: end of SSPX Bishops' excommunications
Four Updates
Scheduled for this weekend

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.

Tornielli's post:

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)
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:


(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 ... .