Vatican receives positive response from SSPX; reconciliation seen within weeks
The Vatican has confirmed receipt of a positive response from the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) to the "doctrinal preamble" that could form the basis for reconciliation between the traditionalist group and the Holy See.
The Ecclesia Dei commission, which is responsible for relations with traditionalist Catholics, announced on April 18 that it had received a response from Bishop Bernard Fellay, the SSPX leader. That response will be reviewed by the Ecclesia Dei commission, and by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and then forwarded to Pope Benedict XVI for a final decision that could result in the lifting of suspensions of SSPX bishops.
Both the Vatican and the SSPX cautioned that Bishop Fellay's response does not resolve all remaining disagreements between the two sides. Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, warned reported that "we cannot conclude that a positive outcome has been reached quite yet." The SSPX issued a statement saying that the latest development in a 3-year series of negotiations must be seen as "a stage and not a conclusion."
Nevertheless informed sources were clearly optimistic about the prospects for resolving the split between the SSPX and the Holy See. Father Lombardi allowed that Bishop Fellay's response was "rather encouraging." Vatican journalist reported that the SSPX leader had essentially assented to the latest draft of the "doctrinal preamble," requesting only a few minor changes in the text that were characterized as "technical" amendments.
The Vatican has not yet released the text of the "doctrinal preamble." Church officials have indicated that it will be made public only after negotiations are complete and the final wording is approved. The text is intended to be part of a larger Vatican document in which the SSPX will be given canonical status, ending a breach that dates back to 1976, when the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the SSPX, was suspended from ministry.
Father Lombardi indicated that the Ecclesia Dei commission will review the SSPX response during the coming week, and a thorough discussion by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would follow during "the next few weeks" before the question is presented to Pope Benedict for resolution.