VATICAN CITY — Vatican representatives are in contact with followers of traditionalist Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, responsible for the only schism of John Paul II's pontificate.
Bishop Camil Perl, secretary of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” confirmed the news to the Italian ANSA agency. The Pope has entrusted the commission with the care of those faithful of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X, founded by Bishop Lefebvre, who wish to return to full communion with Rome.
The rupture took place June 30, 1988, when Bishop Lefebvre ordained four bishops without papal approval. The French bishop had rejected the Second Vatican Council's liturgical reform, and the legitimacy of interreligious dialogue. In 1986 he denounced John Paul's visit to Rome's synagogue as a scandal “without measure or precedent.” Bishop Lefebvre died in 1991.
On July 2, 1988, the Pope wrote the apostolic letter Ecclesia Dei, in which he specifically referred to the episcopal ordination: “Hence such disobedience — which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy — constitutes a schismatic act” (No. 3).
However, in order not to cut off ties and to open the possibility of reconciliation, the Ecclesia Dei commission was created. The panel is now headed by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy.
Today, Bishop Perl disclosed that Cardinal Castrillón “started a series of talks some time ago with Don Bernard Falley, who leads the international Society of St. Pius X in Écône,” Switzerland. The Vatican aide said he did not know when the talks would conclude. He also said “juridical solutions” are being sought to overcome the controversy.
March 14, the Spanish newspaper La Razón reported that “the Vatican is studying [the possibility] of giving the Lefebvrites a personal prelature. The followers of the excommunicated bishop are prepared to return to the heart of the Catholic Church if they are allowed to celebrate Mass in Latin and the excommunications are lifted.”
Currently, Opus Dei is the only personal prelature in the Catholic Church.