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Saturday, 24 January 2009

Excommunications lifted

This morning, the Holy See has communicated the Decree of the Congregation for Bishops which remits, for the four Bishops ordained by Archbishop Lefevbre, the censure of excommunication declared against them on 1 July 1988.

Links
Official announcement at the Vatican website (Italian)
English translation provided by Rorate Caeli
Press release issued by the SSPX superior general, Bishop Fellay
Bishop Fellay's Letter to the Faithful

Some reactions are beginning to come in. Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, in an interview this morning with Radio Notre Dame expressed some cautionary remarks but said:
I am delighted. This is an opportunity, a door open to allow Christians to find the fullness of communion with the Church. As long as they want or they accept it. It is a gesture of mercy and a gesture of openness to strengthen the unity of the Church.
The Chairman of the German Conference of Bishops has issued a statement in which he says that the Pope has offered his outstretched hand and that he hopes that they take it.

Not everyone is happy, of course: I am not thinking of the sandalistas or the secularists but of many good and sound Catholics who are concerned at the tendencies shown by some within the SSPX and given voice especially by Bishop Williamson. Damian Thompson has written a good piece this morning which summarises those concerns. (See: Pope Benedict is taking a huge risk in lifting the SSPX excommunications). I agree that he is taking a huge risk and that "Joseph Ratzinger has already factored the hostile reaction into the equation."

As I indicated yesterday, I am delighted by this news. I have met some very good people from the SSPX and it is a great joy to know that the principal obstruction to their full jurisdictional normality in the Church has now been removed. It is a typically "Benedictine" move to have the announcement made during the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity and I trust Pope Benedict's judgement that this will "promote unity in the charity of the universal Church." Nevertheless, Damian is right to say that "This is the biggest risk that Pope Benedict has taken in his pontificate so far."

In his letter to the faithful, Bishop Fellay attributed today's good news to the one million, seven hundred and three thousand rosaries that have been said to obtain the intercession of Our Lady. We must pray for the Holy Father - offer up rosaries, Masses, penances, and almsgiving that his courageous "gift of peace" will bear abundant fruit.
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