By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Continuing initiatives aimed at a reconciliation
with the Priestly Society
of St. Pius X, Pope Francis has
made it possible for bishops to ensure the validity of marriages celebrated in
the traditionalist communities.
published by the Vatican April 4 said the pope will allow Catholic bishops to
appoint priests to assist at SSPX marriages and formally receive the consent of
the couples. The nuptial Mass then would be celebrated by the SSPX priest.
addition, Pope Francis gave bishops the option of granting an SSPX priest the
necessary faculties to officiate validly over the marriage rite “if there
are no priests in the diocese” available to do so.
provisions are meant to ensure the validity of the sacrament and “allay
any concerns on the part of the faithful,” said the letter
published by the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” which is responsible for
the Vatican’s ongoing talks with the Society of St. Pius X.
The commission is led by German Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who signed the letter March 27.
decades the Vatican and leaders of the traditionalist society, founded by
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, have been seeking a way to fully reintegrate the
members of the society back into the life of the Catholic Church.
the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis made special provisions to recognize as valid
the absolution offered by SSPX priests through the sacrament of confession.
After the Holy Year ended, the pope extended that provision “lest anyone
ever be deprived of the sacramental sign of reconciliation through the church’s
Pope Francis met in April 2016 with Bishop Bernard Fellay,
superior general of the society. The meeting seemed to signal progress in
reconciling the group with the church.
“Despite the objective persistence of the canonical
irregularity in which, for the time being, the Society of St. Pius X finds
itself,” the commission said in its new letter, the provisions approved by the pope on marriages should alleviate
“any uneasiness of conscience on the part of the faithful regarding the validity
of the sacrament of marriage.”
The commission also said it relied on the cooperation of the
church’s bishops to ensure that “the process toward full institutional regularization may be
facilitated” between the church and the traditionalist society.
talks with the society began under St. John Paul II and continued throughout
the papacy of now-retired Pope Benedict XVI.
John Paul had excommunicated Bishop Fellay and other leaders of the society in
1988 when they were ordained without papal permission by Archbishop Lefebvre,
who died in 1991. Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications in 2009, opening
the way for more regular talks.
talks have focused particularly on the teaching of the Second Vatican Council
and especially its documents on religious liberty, ecumenism, liturgy and
relations with other religions.
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