Following the reactions caused by the recent Decree of the Congregation for Bishops, with which the excommunication of the four Prelates of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X was remitted, and regarding the Negationist or Reductionist declarations on the Shoah of Bishop Williamson, of the same Fraternity, it is considered convenient to clarify a few aspects of past events.
1. Remission of the excommunication.
As already made public previously, the Decree of the Congregation for Bishops, dated January 21, 2009, was an act by which the Holy Father graciously responded to the repeated requests by the Superior General of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X.
His Holiness desired to remove an obstacle which prevented the opening of a door to dialogue. He now expects that an equal disposition will be expressed by the four Bishops in complete adherence to the doctrine and discipline of the Church.
The extremely grave censure of latae sententiae excommunication, in which the aforementioned Bishops had incurred on June 30, 1988, then formally declared on July 1st of the same year, was a consequence of their illegitimate ordinarion by Mons. Marcel Lefebvre.
The removal of the excommunication released the four Bishops from an extremely grave canonical censure, but has not changed the juridical position of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, which, at the current moment, does not enjoy any canonical recognition by the Catholic Church. Not even the four Bishops, though released from the excommunication, have a canonical function in the Church and they do not exercise licitly a ministry in it.
2. Tradition, doctrine, and the Second Vatican Council.
For a future recognition of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, the full acknowledgment of the Second Vatican Council and of the Magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and of the same Benedict XVI is an indispensable condition
As it was already affirmed in the Decree of January 21, 2009, the Holy See will not avoid, in ways deemed appropriate, discussing with the interested [party] the questions that remain open, so as to be able to reach a full and satisfactory resolution of the problems which originated this painful division.
3. Declarations on the Shoah.
The positions of Mons. Williamson on the Shoah are absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father, as he himself remarked on the past January 28, when, referring to that brutal genocide, he reaffirmed his full and unquestionable solidarity with our Brethren, receivers of the First Covenant, and affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide must lead "mankind to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man", adding that the Shoah remains "for all a warning against forgetfulness, against denial or reductionism, because the violence against a single human being is violence against all".
Bishop Williamson, for an admission to episcopal functions in the Church, will also have to distance himself, in an absolutely unequivocal and public manner, from his positions regarding the Shoah, unknown to the Holy Father in the moment of the remission of the excommunication.
The Holy Father asks to be joined by the prayers of all the faithful, so that the Lord may enlighten the path of the Church. May the effort of the Pastors and of all the faithful increase in support of the delicate and burdensome mission of the Successor of Apostle Peter as "custodian of unity" in the Church.
From the Vatican, February 4, 2009.
[Translation corrected according to the published version -
L'Osservatore Romano, February 5, 2009
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