SSPX Regularisation In Year of Mercy?

On April 1 this year, reports emerged that the Superior General of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) was welcomed with open arms at the Vatican by the man some regard as the most liberal pope of all time.  

No, it wasn’t an April Fool’s story; the summit actually took place. Even more remarkably, the meeting was described by traditionalists as “very positive”. There was good reason to be incredulous. The SSPX is a traditionalist group that fiercely oppose the changes brought about following the Second Vatican Council. Their leader Bishop Fellay was so disappointed with the recent apostolic exhortation that he said it made him weep. 

Pope Francis: SSPX is Catholic - that is evident

                   Pope Francis: SSPX is Catholic –             that is evident

Meanwhile, Pope Francis is adored by secular commentators and during his time as Pontiff has fast-tracked the canonisation of the architect of Vatican II, [Pope] John XXIII, with whom he is regularly compared. It is difficult to imagine much common ground between Bishop Fellay and Francis, and yet the Pope has taken constructive steps in order to bring the estranged SSPX back into full communion with the Church. 

Francis’s sympathies existed long before he was elected Pope. When he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires and members of the SSPX applied for visas to work in the country, he vouched for their Catholicity to the Argentine Government, reportedly saying: “You are Catholic – it is evident.”

But the big gesture of inclusion came when Pope Francis announced that during the Year of Mercy, contrary to former rules, Catholics would be able to receive absolution from SSPX priests. In a letter last year, he wrote: “This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one.”

As Fr John Zuhlsdorf pointed out: “If the Holy Father is willing to go this far with the priests of the SSPX, is it hard to imagine that this merciful concession might not be extended beyond the Year of Mercy? I would like to think so.” He then observed, in an analogy with American history: “If only Nixon could go to China, perhaps Pope Francis is the Pope who will reconcile the SSPX.”

Pope Francis encouraged Bishop Fellay to open a seminary in Italy

Pope Francis to Bishop Fellay:  open a seminary in Italy!

Perhaps. After all, Rorate Caeli, a blog that is not usually overflowing with optimism about Francis, was positive about Bishop Fellay and Francis’s meeting last week. It reports that during the meeting “the Pope confirmed that the SSPX was Catholic in his eyes. He confirmed that he never would condemn it, he confided that he wishes to expand the faculties of the SSPX, starting with the authorisation of its priests to validly hear Confession. Finally, during the talks in Rome, Bishop Fellay was encouraged to establish a seminary in Italy.”

The question still remains as to why Francis is so keen to extend the hand of friendship. Paul Vallely, author of Pope Francis: Untying the Knots: The Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism, says Francis’s approach is typical of his inclusive character: “He wants everyone inside the Church and inside the conversation … Being welcoming to the SSPX is part of his openness.”

Austen Ivereigh, author of The Great Reformer, agrees: “Like his predecessors, Pope Francis takes very seriously his mission of restoring the unity of the Church. Orthodox, Anglicans, SSPX – wherever there has been a split, he will try to heal it … Extending the SSPX’s faculty of Confessions is one area where he sees they can do something together – and create space for the Holy Spirit to act. That’s how he sees his task as Pope.”

Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society, notes that traditionalists and SSPX are on the outskirts of the Church. He said: “Pope Francis has shown a particular interest in this important work of the Petrine Office, in relation not only to the SSPX but also to the ‘Patriotic’ Catholics of China, and the Orthodox …

“There is also a parallel between Catholics attached to the Traditional Mass and others found on the ‘peripheries’ of the Church, since as Pope Benedict remarked they have been treated as ‘lepers’, and suffered real marginalisation. The reasons for the attitude pushing them to the margins is increasingly difficult to understand, and clearly not shared by Pope Francis.”

The fact that so many liberals warm to Francis makes some traditional Catholics uneasy. But if Francis really is today’s pin-up for “progressive” Catholics, he is certainly teaching them a thing or two about how to be genuinely inclusive, and this includes welcoming traditionalists. Click here to read original


We did discuss the possibility – likelihood even  – of a speedy recognition of the Society back in February click here to read that previous post. Despite all the scandals, notably the recent Exhortation, it seems that Pope Francis is still well disposed towards the SSPX.  The key question is… why?  

Surely, Now’s The Time To Raise Most Important Issue In The World?

Below, a report of the planned meeting between the Pope and Vladimir Putin in Rome – surely an excellent opportunity to raise the question of the Consecration of Russia.  I say that, because I doubt that Putin will have any objection, and that puts the bishops in their place. I did read somewhere that he DID object once when it was put to him, but not sure whether that is true or not. Certainly, if he has no problem with it, why should the bishops? Read the report below and tell us if you agree…

POPE-PUTIN_2745743bVladimir Putin will raise the Ukraine crisis and the plight of Christians in the Middle East during a meeting with Pope Francis in Rome on Wednesday.

It will be Mr Putin’s second meeting with Pope Francis, and the latest episode in a long-running but sometimes fraught relationship between the Kremlin and the Vatican.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the president of Russia and the Bishop of Rome will cover “specific international problems, in particular the situation in Ukraine with emphasis on inter-religious relations and the activities of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics,” Kremlin spokesman Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Tuesday.

Russian leaders traditionally visit the Pope during any visit to Italy, and Russian and Soviet leaders have maintained links with the Vatican since formal contacts were established between the Holy See and the Kremlin under Mikhail Gorbachev.

For the Kremlin, these meetings are an important source of “supplementary external legitimacy,” said Andrei Zolotov, a Russian journalist who specialises in religious affairs. “That is particularly important for Moscow in the present political situation.”

At their last meeting in November 2013 the notoriously tardy Mr Putin kept the Pope and his aides waiting for nearly an hour (the Kremlin blamed the delay on protesters outside Mr Putin’s Rome hotel).

Mr Putin’s team hailed that meeting as a success, and it raised hopes of a rapprochement between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy.

But analysts say a mooted historic meeting between the Pope and Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, is now off the cards – largely thanks to the war in Ukraine.

To date Pope Francis has avoided taking a strong line on the Ukraine crisis, confining himself to expression of dismay at a “war between Christians” and implicitly – but not specifically – condemning the annexation of Crimea by calling for respect for international law.

A Russia-backed rebel fires at Ukrainian army positions at Donetsk airport, eastern Ukraine (AP)

According to one leading Vatican analyst, the Russians have taken care to express their appreciation for that restraint.

Writing in Rome’s Corriere della Sera newspaper on Tuesday, Massimo Franco said that in the past few days Patriarch Ilarione of the Russian Orthodox Church had “discreetly” reaffirmed gratitude for the Vatican’s “independent” line.

That is partly because the Vatican is sees Mr Putin’s Kremlin as an ally in other areas.

Apart from a joint commitment to “traditional values” – most prominently in opposition to gay marriage – the Third and First Romes have shared interests in the Middle East.

 Pope Francis has also been outspoken in his condemnation of persecution of Christian minorities in the Middle East, blaming the fanaticism of groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) for driving Christians from their homes.

The Vatican openly opposed Western countries entering the war in Syria, and some analysts suggest that the “moral pressure” of a vigil for peace led by Pope Francis in September 2013 was instrumental in averting airstrikes.

In turn, Mr Putin has sought to reassert Russia’s traditional claim to be the protector of Christians in the Middle East, and has long portrayed his ally Bashar Assad, the Syrian president, as a secular protector of religious minorities against violent Islamism.

Russian weapons deliveries and diplomatic cover at the United Nations have been crucial to Mr Assad’s survival since an uprising against his rule in 2011 broke into a full-blown civil war.

For the Vatican, that makes Mr Putin an “unavoidable and valuable interlocutor for containing Islamic terrorism,” said Mr Franco.

But Pope Francis is coming under increasing pressure from leaders of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to take a more forceful line.

Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the Archbishop of Kiev Halych and the head of the Ukrainian church, has openly criticised the Vatican’s “ambivalence” over Russia’s role in the war.

“We understand Rome is trying to safeguard its ties with Moscow, but we also know Christ has always been on the side of those who suffer. In this conflict, it is Ukraine which is suffering – and the Holy See, whose diplomacy is service of the Gospel, should be at our side,” he said in May in an interview with La Croix, a French Catholic daily.

Most combatants on either side of the war in Ukraine are eastern Orthodox.

But the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has been outspoken in its support of Kiev, and some fighters, especially on the pro-Russian side, see the war as a continuation of centuries of enmity between Orthodox Slavic civilization and the Catholic dominated West. Source