WILL POPE FRANCIS BRING THE SOCIETY OF SAINT PIUS X IN FROM THE COLD IN THIS YEAR OF MERCY?

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Get reconciled like Francis  Pappa

 Christopher Lamb in Rome  in Tablet UK, April5/16

Last Saturday the Pope held a 40 minute meeting in the Vatican with the leader of SSPX, Bishop Bernard Fellay,

It might be described as the “open door” pontificate. Pope Francis suggests Lutherans can receive communion, meets with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and apologises for Catholic persecution of evangelicals. He helps unfreeze diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba and tries to bring peace to a war zone in Africa

                     (Note: Just look at the Francis’ attaire! Will you ever see Indian bishops, especially anyone of the Syro-Malankara Rite variety, dressed in an ordinary gentleman’s outfit without the red and purple symbols of power and position? Francis  is an ordinary man among ordinary people like Jesus. Until that happens just close your eyes on them as a  sign of protest against all the counter-witnessing  to Jesus done by our bishops through their refusal to come down from their high thrones. Jesus emptied himself to the state of a slave. Bishops who can’t do that should just resign like Benedictg XVI and get out of the way of Lord and stop being a road block for His onward journey. Also look at his readiness   to apologize to Evangelists, Lutherans, the Orthodox for the persecution done by  the Catholic Church! Heard of any Pope doing that? Catholic church was always right, like the Pharisee praying in the Temple and all others heretics. In Francis the roles change. Don’t expect such change in our bishops James Kottorof the two Oriental Rites.Others should change according to their  bidding. But what about you and me ordinary Church Citizens (Laity)? We have no axe to grind, nor are we out to expand out kingdom with new Religious Colonies. So let us follow the example of Francis who follows Jesus. james kottoor, editor)

When Francis is faced with a closed door, his first response is not to walk away but to try and unpick the lock. His latest reconciliation attempts are with the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), the dissident traditionalist group whose mission is to preserve the liturgy and practices of the Church existing before the Second Vatican Council.  

Last Saturday he had a 40 minute meeting in the Vatican with their leader, Bishop Bernard Fellay, and in the past has said he hopes the quasi-schismatic group can “recover full communion” with the Church. 

At first glance, Francis' attempts at peace with the society appear contradictory. He is the modernising Pope fully in tune with the reforms of Vatican II and with no interest in the old rite liturgy. For its part, the society sees Francis as a beyond-the-pale modernist. 

Yet while his papacy alarms the SSPX, its leader likes Francis. And this personal warmth could be a game changer when it comes to bringing the group in from the cold. After all, when resolving any dispute relationships between the opposing parties are as important as the issues themselves. 

In a recent interview with “L’Espresso” Bishop Fellay said one of the major problems in the SSPX's reconciliation with Rome is “mistrust” and that as long as this persists “we will not make very much progress”.Set up in 1970, the group has no clear legal status in the Church and in 1988 four of its bishops were excommunicated following episcopal consecrations which took place without permission from Rome. 

Benedict XVI made strenuous attempts to heal the rift and in 2009 lifted excommunications. This blew up in his face when it emerged that one of the bishops, Richard Williamson, was a holocaust denier (Williamson has since left the group). 

The Vatican then tried to get the society to agree to a doctrinal statement accepting the authority of the Pope, the magisterium and the teaching of Vatican II. But the society could not agree and the talks broke down.    

Francis does not appear interested in trying to win ideological points over the group known as the “Lefebvrists” after their founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Lefebvre refused to accept the reforms of the council on religious liberty, ecumenism and the liturgy and a condition of the society’s return has always been that they accept the council on these points. 

But in the “L’Espresso” interview Bishop Fellay suggests that the old stumbling blocks are now “open for discussion.”He said: “This obligation to adhere to a position is substantially and even perhaps totally mitigated or even removed.”

There is a danger that, if a reconciliation were to happen, the society would be allowed back in on its own terms. On the other hand, it may be a sign of Francis’ confidence in the reforms of the council and the direction he is taking the Church that if a small splinter wants to retain the old ways that is not a problem. It’s a bit like inviting an eccentric uncle to your wedding: he has some strange views but is still part of the family. It also shows that this Pope places personal reconciliation ahead of doctrine.

Bishop Fellay says that Francis is attracted by ending the rift with the Lefebvrists because he sees them as part of the “peripheries” he is so fond of reaching out to.  And if a reconciliation were to take place during the jubilee year it would have the advantage of demonstrating God’s inexhaustible mercy, which the Pope repeatedly talks about. Bringing back the Lefebvrists would be a bold move. But we’ve had those before from this Pope.

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