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Rome Reports

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Pope Expresses Regrets Over Lefebvrist Controversy

Benedict XVI sent the letter to 5,000 bishops around the world in which he explains why he lifted the excommunication of four traditionalist bishops ordained by Marcel Lefebvre in 1988 without papal permission. ;

He acknowledges that the Vatican made mistakes in its communications strategy. ; He says the goal of the letter is to “contribute to peace in the Church.”

Benedict XVI reached out to the Society of Saint Pius X, following advice of the Gospel. ; ;

Federico Lombardi Director, Vatican Press Office ; ;In the sermon on the mount, Jesus says, “If the brother has something against you, you leave the offering on the side of the altar and you go reconcile with him.” ; There is a very strong sense of ; commitment in response to a commandment of the Lord, in seeking reconciliation.

The Pope called the decision to lift the excommunication as a “gesture of mercy” in favor of unity among Christians. ; He also lamented that the Vatican was unable to explain correctly the decision in the court of public opinion. ; ; ; ;

Federico Lombardi Director, Vatican Press Office ; I feel very appreciative of the fact that there was no intention of fixing the blame or responsibility on one collaborator or another. ;

The Pope explained that the four bishops were excommunicated because they did not recognize the Pope’s authority. ; Since 20 years had passed and they now did recognize papal authority, the excommunication was lifted. But they and their followers remain outside of the church, because they do not accept Catholic doctrine on religious freedom, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and collegial government.

Because the differences now are only doctrinal and not liturgical, the organization responsible for negotiating its return to the Catholic Church will be the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. ;

The Pope expressed sadness for the hostility expressed in the criticism of some Catholics. ; He laments that some “openly accused the Pope of wanting to turn back the clock to before the Second Vatican Council”

Federico Lombardi Director, Vatican Press Office ; There is a sense I feel in the letter, a sense of humility and an admission of responsibility, with regard to the bishops. ; ;

The Pope concluded the letter asking Catholics to be guided by charity in the face of controversy, which is the just way of living in freedom.