SSPX's Bishop Fellay Meets Pope Francis, Cardinal Müller

Reconciliation between the SSPX and Rome still appears some way off, but those looking to the Society to come to the Church's aid is increasing, according to Bishop Fellay.

Palazzo Sant'Ufficio, the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Palazzo Sant'Ufficio, the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (photo:

Pope Francis briefly greeted the superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, at the Holy Father's Santa Marta residence on Thursday.

The cursory meeting, on the 99th anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun” apparition at Fatima, took place during a visit Bishop Fellay was making to the Vatican to meet Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The SSPX head also met with Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., Secretary of the CDF, and Archbishop Guido Pozzo, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, according to an SSPX statement.

The Society said the meeting with Cardinal Müller was “planned long ago, and followed the one on September 23, 2014.” It took place “within the framework of the relations that the Society of St. Pius X has always kept up with the Roman authorities,” the SSPX added, and that it was also held within the context of “doctrinal discussions” that have taken place within the Society and which “will continue in the months to come.”

Those encounters, the fruit of discussions between Bishop Fellay and Cardinal Müller, are designed to be larger and less formal meetings to allow visitors to become better acquainted with the priestly fraternity and what adhering to Tradition can accomplish.

A spokesman for the SSPX, which disputes Second Vatican Council teachings on religious freedom and ecumenism, told the Register “nothing really new, no real developments” came from Thursday’s meetings, but the visit did serve to show that “contacts and discussions are not broken as some feared after the last meeting of superiors last June.”

At that June meeting, the SSPX issued a statement clarifying its position vis-à-vis the Vatican following the “painful confusion” that had emanated from the synods on the family and “other confusing signals from Rome.”

They also hoped to obtain clarification from Cardinal Müller who had said in an interview that he expected the SSPX to accept all the teachings of the Second Vatican Council it disputes before canonical recognition could be given.

The cardinal’s remarks appeared to differ from those of Archbishop Pozzo who had said assent to all the Vatican II teachings would not be imposed on the Society.  

A source close to the talks said that during Thursday’s meeting some practical points on establishing a canonical structure like a Prelature to allow the SSPX to come into “full communion” with Rome were discussed, as well as the interpretation of Vatican II.

But given the continued confusing signals from Rome, which Bishop Fellay laid out in a speech on Oct. 8 in France, any imminent canonical recognition now appears unlikely.

In his speech, Bishop Fellay delineated the differences of opinion in the Vatican and what he calls a "vague Magisterium" which, he argues, makes it difficult to know what the Vatican is actually teaching or proposing.

He also revealed that he is receiving an "increasing" number of letters from Catholics, including members of the hierarchy, calling on the SSPX to adhere to its positions and to come to the Church’s aid. He quoted one unnamed bishop who wrote: “We need voices that tell us the limits of our freedom in those areas,” and that “the Church, which teaches the truth, is now lost in gray areas, in vagueness.”

“This is new. There was nothing like this before,” Bishop Fellay said. “The bishops used to tell us: obviously there are problems, but at the end of the day…. And here they are telling us: ‘Resist, we need it!’ Actually they do not speak too loud because they know very well that if they do, they will be cutting off their own heads.”

He urged the Society not to become “preoccupied all the time” over a possible agreement with Rome. “I myself know nothing about it,” he said. “We will see. We will not give in, that I know, with the grace of God. May He come to our aid! But little by little we see that work that is being accomplished over time, this crisis is awakening the little remnant. Let us pray for this intention.”