Decree Remitting the Excommunication of the Bishops of the Society of St Pius X
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re
Prefect, Congregation for Bishops
Decree remitting the excommunication latae sententia of the Bishops of the Society of St Pius X
Mercy and expectation
The Holy Father, following a process of dialogue between the Apostolic See and the Society of St Pius X represented by its Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay, has accepted the petition presented once again by the aforementioned Bishop in a letter of 15 December 2008 — also in the name of the other three Bishops of the Society, Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Bishop Richard Williamson and Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta — that the excommunication which they incurred twenty years ago be remitted.
Because of the episcopal consecrations conferred on 30 June 1988 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, without papal mandate, the abovementioned four Bishops incurred the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae, which was formally declared by the Congregation for Bishops on July 1988.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, in the letter mentioned above, made clear to the Holy Father that: "we continue firmly resolute in our desire to remain Catholics and to put all our strength at the service of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept her teachings in a filial spirit. We firmly believe in the primacy of Peter and his prerogatives, and for this reason the current situation causes us much suffering".
His Holiness Benedict XVI, who has followed this process from the beginning, has always sought to repair the breach with the Society, also by meeting Bishop Bernard Fellay personally on 29 August 2005. On that occasion the Supreme Pontiff expressed his willingness to proceed gradually and within a reasonable time along this path, and now, with pastoral solicitude and paternal compassion, through a Decree of the Congregation for Bishops dated 21 January 2009, he graciously remits the excommunication imposed on the aforementioned Bishops. The Holy Father has been inspired in this decision by the hope of reaching, as soon as possible, complete reconciliation and full communion.
From the Vatican, 24 January 2009
In a letter of 15 December 2008 addressed to Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei", Mons. Bernard Fellay — writing also in the name of the other three Bishops consecrated on 30 June 1988 — requested once again the removal of the excommunication latae sententiae formally declared by a Decree of the Prefect of this Congregation for Bishops on July 1988. In his letter, Mons. Fellay stated, among other things, that "we continue firmly resolute in our desire to remain Catholics and to put all our strength at the service of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept her teachings in a filial spirit. We firmly believe in the primacy of Peter and in his prerogatives, and for this reason the current situation causes us much suffering".
His Holiness Benedict XVI — in his paternal concern for the spiritual distress which the parties concerned have voiced as a result of the excommunication, and trusting in their commitment, expressed in the aforementioned letter, to spare no effort in exploring as yet unresolved questions through requisite discussions with the authorities of the Holy See in order to reach a prompt, full and satisfactory solution to the original problem — has decided to reconsider the canonical situation of Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, resulting from their episcopal consecration.
This act signifies a desire to strengthen reciprocal relations of trust, and to deepen and stabilize the relationship of the Society of St Pius X with this Apostolic See. This gift of peace, coming at the end of the Christmas celebrations, is also meant to be a sign which promotes the Universal Church's unity in charity, and removes the scandal of division.
It is hoped that this step will be followed by the prompt attainment of full communion with the Church on the part of the whole Society of St Pius X, which will thus bear witness to its genuine fidelity and genuine recognition of the Magisterium and authority of the Pope by the proof of visible unity.
On the basis of the powers expressly granted to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, by virtue of the present Decree I remit the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae incurred by Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, and declared by this Congregation on July 1988. At the same time I declare that, as of today's date, the Decree issued at that time no longer has juridical effect.
Rome, from the Congregation for Bishops, 21 January 2009
Cardinal GIOVANNI BATTISTA RE
Weekly Edition in English
4 February 2009, page 4
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