The breakaway Society of St. Pius X has confirmed reports that its Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay, met Pope Francis at his St. Martha residence, but said the encounter was unplanned and the exchange was brief, lasting "a few seconds".
“On 13 December 2013 Bishop Fellay and his assistants went to Rome at the request of the Commission Ecclesia Dei, for an informal meeting,” said a May 12 statement in French.
Following this meeting, the statement said Archbishop Guido Pozzo, Secretary of the Commission, "invited his counterparts to lunch in the dining room of St. Martha House where they were joined by Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, adjunct-secretary of the Congregation [for the Doctrine] of the Faith. It is in this large refectory that the Pope takes his daily meals, away from other guests.”
The statement went on to say that Archbishop Pozzo "insisted" on introducing Bishop Fellay to the Pope while the Holy Father was leaving the room. “There was a brief exchange where Pope Francis said to Bishop Fellay, according to the usual polite formula, "I’m very glad to meet you." To this, Bishop Fellay answered that he was praying a lot, and the pope asked him to pray for him. Such was the "meeting" that lasted a few seconds. "
The statement also denied reports that two of Bishop Fellay’s assistants attended a Mass celebrated by the Pope. “Fathers Niklaus Pfluger and Alain-Marc Nély have never attended the Pope's private Mass,” the SSPX said.
The SSPX recalled an interview Fellay gave to the publication 'Le Rocher’ (April-May 2014), in which he was asked if Rome had made an unofficial attempt to get back in touch with him since Pope Francis' election.
"Rome made a ‘non-official’ approach to renew contact with us, but nothing more, and I have not asked for an audience as I did after Benedict XVI’s election," he said. "For me, things at present are very simple: we stay as we are. Some concluded from my close contact with Rome in 2012 that I regard the necessity of a canonical recognition as a supreme principle. Preserving the Faith and our traditional Catholic identity is essential and remains our first principle."
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi also confirmed Monday that the encounter took place and that the SSPX statement was accurate.
The full text of the statement has now been posted in English here.