Rorate Caeli

Motu Proprio "Ecclesiae Unitatem" - in English





1. The role of guarding THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH, with the solicitude of offering to all aid for responding in an opportune manner to this vocation and divine grace, belongs in a particular way to the Successor of the Apostle Peter, who is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of the unity both of Bishops and of the faithful1. The supreme and fundamental priority of the Church, in every age, of leading men towards an encounter with God must be favored through the effort of promoting the common witness of faith of all Christians.

2. In faithfulness to this mandate, following the act with which Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, on June 30, 1988, illicitly conferred the episcopal ordination on four priests, Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, instituted, on July 2, 1988, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei "whose task of collaborating with the bishops, with the Departments of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities or individuals until now linked in various ways to the Fraternity founded by Mons. Lefebvre, who may wish to remain united to the Successor Peter in the Catholic Church, while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions, in the light of the Protocol signed on 5 May last by Cardinal Ratzinger and Mons. Lefebvre"2.

3. In this way faithfully adhering to the same purpose of serving the universal communion of the Church also in her visible manifestation and making every effort so that to all those who truly desire unity it is made possible to remain in it or to find it anew, We have desired to widen and renew, with the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the general indications already contained in the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei regarding the possibility of using the Missale Romanum of 1962, through more precise and detailed rules3.

4. In the same spirit, and with the same commitment of favoring the overcoming of each fracture and division in the Church and to heal a wound felt in an always more painful way in the ecclesial tissue, We desired to remit the excommunication of the four Bishops illicitly ordained by Mons. Lefebvre. With such a decision, We intended to remove an obstacle which could prevent the opening of a door to dialogue, and thus invite the Bishops and the "Fraternity of Saint Pius X" to find anew the path towards full communion with the Church. As We explained in the Letter to the Catholic Bishops of past March 10, the remission of the excommunication was a decision in the area of ecclesiastical discipline which could liberate the weight of conscience represented by the gravest ecclesiastical censure. The doctrinal questions, however, obviously remain, and, until they are not clarified, the Fraternity does not have a canonical status within the Church, and its ministers cannot exercise any ministry legitimately.

5. Since the questions which must be dealt with the Fraternity are of an essentially doctrinal nature, We have decided - twenty-one years after the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei, and as We had planned to do4 - to restructure the Commission Ecclesia Dei, linking it more directly with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

6. Therefore, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei will be constituted thus:

a) The President of the Commission is the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

b) The Commission has its own structure, including a Secretary and Officials.

c) It belongs to the President, aided by the Secretary, to present the main events and questions of a doctrinal nature to the study and deliberation of the ordinary instances of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as to submit the conclusions to the superior judgment of the Supreme Pontiff.

7. With this decision, We have desired, in particular, to display our fatherly solicitude to the "Fraternity of Saint Pius X" so that in the end it may come to full communion with the Church.

We earnestly invite all to pray to the Lord incessantly, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "ut unum sint".

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on July 2 of the year 2009, the fifth of Our Pontificate.

1. Cfr Conc. Oecum. Vat. II, Const. dogm. de Ecclesia, Lumen gentium, 23; Conc. Oecum. Vat. I, Const. dogm. de Ecclesia Christi Pastor aeternus, c. 3: DS 3060.

2. Ioannes Paulus II, Litt. ap. motu proprio datae Ecclesia Dei (2 Iulii 1988), n. 6: AAS 80 (1988), 1498.

3. Cfr Benedictus XVI, Litt. ap. motu proprio datae Summorum Pontificum (7 Iulii 2007): AAS 99 (2007), 777-781.

4. Cfr ibid. art. 11, 781.