Rorate Caeli

On the Meeting with the Pope - Interview granted 2/21/22 to Anne le Pape by Fr. Paul-Joseph, Superior of the FSSP district of France

Father, what is the backstory of your recent meeting with the Holy Father?

Fr Ribeton, rector of the European seminary of our Fraternity, and I wrote directly to the Pope on December 28 to express our dismay and our incomprehension following the publication of Traditionis Custodes and the Responsa. We confidently appealed to his solicitude. He answered us by hand the next day (everything was done by scan, but yes, the letter was in his hand), reassuring us and inviting us to come and meet him to talk things over. So we contacted his secretariat and the date of February 4, 2022 was set; that is the day when Father Ribeton and I went to Rome.

We were received at Saint Martha's House for almost an hour. The Pope was very kind during the whole interview, he showed real concern. He confirmed orally what he had implied in writing, namely that he was really distinguishing our situation from that of priests who are not members of the ex-Ecclesia Dei communities and that, in our particular case, since our Institute has the specificity of using ancient liturgical books, this document was not intended for us.

So you were immediately reassured?

Yes, indeed. The Pope pointed out to us that in the motu proprio, where it speaks of the ex-Ecclesia Dei institutes, it indicates that they will henceforth be under the jurisdiction of a new dicastery, that for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and that it was by design that we were not mentioned directly in this document, since we were going to be under a new jurisdiction. "You are not affected by these restrictions," he told us, "but you retain your proper right, granted at your foundation in 1988." The Pope was truly touched by the history of our Fraternity, by our founders' going to the Holy Father in 1988 to express their dismay, much as we did this time; he thought it an act of faith that deserved to be honored and encouraged. He assured us that we would keep the use of all the liturgical books, including the pontifical for ordinations.

So now you have every guarantee?

We respectfully asked him if this could be formally put down in writing. We received the document yesterday, Saturday February 19, which is why we did not want to talk about it publicly until then. This decree repeats the decree of the Ecclesia Dei Commission of September 1988 confirming the use of the liturgical books of 1962 for our Fraternity, but this time it is signed by the Pope (the 1988 decree was signed by the Ecclesia Dei Commission).

So your position is confirmed vis-à-vis the bishops?

The bishops remain free to accept us or not in their dioceses, but, from the moment we exercise an apostolate in a diocese, we cannot be asked, on the grounds of obedience to the successor of Peter or to the prior document, to use the current liturgical books, since our proper right is preserved by a de facto exemption.

What about ordinations?

There is still a small grey area: no bishop is a member of the Society of St. Peter. It was recently stated that they no longer have the right to use the ancient pontifical, and this may produce hesitation among some of them. But the Pope was happy to hear us talk about our future ordinations, and the position is clear on that side. 

Do you know whether other institutes will receive the same treatment as you, or was that subject not broached during this visit?

Orally, during the audience, the Pope used the plural to speak of "the institutes", i.e. formerly Ecclesia Dei institutes. I can't be more categorical, but that's what came out of the discussion.

Interview conducted by Anne Le Pape for Présent (link to French original).
Translation by Jerome Stridon.