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Talks with SSPX given unexpected new impetus

9 August, 2013 0 Comments

Pozzo back at his old desk.  What game is Bergoglio playing?

By Alessandro Speciale | The Tablet | August 10, 2013

Nine months after his promotion to the mostly ceremonial role of Apostolic Almoner, Pope Francis has called back Archbishop Guido Pozzo to his former job as secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, where he will oversee the Vatican’s relations with traditionalist communities.

In this role, which he held from 2009 to 2012, Archbishop Pozzo coordinated the doctrinal talks initiated by Pope Benedict XVI with the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), with the aim of bringing the traditionalist group back into full communion with Rome.

The SSPX was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre for traditionalists who objected to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. During his pontificate, Pope Benedict liberalised the use of the pre-conciliar Mass in Latin in 2007 and cancelled the excommunication of the four SSPX bishops in 2009. Three years of “doctrinal talks” between Vatican and SSPX officials ensued, with the aim of overcoming the Lefebvrists’ refusal to accept Vatican II teachings. But despite the efforts of Archbishop Pozzo and others the talks failed to achieve reconciliation.

Arcbishop Pozzo’s promotion to the role of Almoner in November 2012 was widely seen as an implicit acknowledgment of the impasse.

Then, last January, Ecclesia Dei’s vice president, Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, admitted that the dialogue between Rome and the traditionalist group risked becoming a “well-meaning but unending and fruitless exchange”.

According to observers, Archbishop Pozzo’s knowledge of the complex SSPX issue could hint at Francis’ desire to revive the dialogue with traditionalists.

Archbishop Pozzo’s return to the role he held for three years is an unusual move in the Vatican. Ecclesia Dei can now count three archbishops in its leadership: Pozzo as secretary, Di Noia as vice president and Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (to which the commission is attached), as its president.

On 11 July, Pope Francis signed a decree banning the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate from offering the pre-conciliar Mass – the Extraordinary Form – without authorisation.

The 2007 motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” issued by Pope Benedict XVI allowed priests to celebrate Mass in the old rite without seeking the permission of their bishops, and there was speculation that this decree could indicate a more restrictive attitude on the part of Pope Francis to celebration of the old rite in general.

It now appears that he was simply ruling on an alleged “excessive propensity” to the old rite on the part of some of the friars, which Pope Benedict sent an apostolic visitor to investigate a year ago.

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