Pope Francis met on April 1 with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), for a “cordial” discussion of prospects for regularization of the traditionalist group.
The SSPX– which objects to Vatican II teachings on religious liberty and ecumenism, and insists on the celebration of the Tridentine Mass– broke with the Holy See in 1988, when the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre ordained four bishops without Vatican approval, incurring the penalty of excommunication. Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications in 2009, but the prelates and priests of the SSPX remain suspended from ministry. Talks aimed at regularization of the traditionalist group reached an impasse in 2012, but informal discussions have continued.
Pope Francis had not previously met with Bishop Fellay, except for brief greetings. In a statement released after the meeting, the SSPX reported that the Pope “had wanted a private and informal meeting, without the formality of an official audience.” The Pontiff spoke with Bishop Fellay for about 40 minutes. The canonical status of the SSPX “was not directly addressed,” the society said, but the Pope and Bishop Fellay agreed that talks should continue “without haste.”
In an interview published just a few days before his meeting with the Pontiff, Bishop Fellay had said that he thinks Pope Francis might be anxious to resolve the problems of the SSPX, because the Pope has a special concern for “anything that is marginalized.”
Bishop Fellay met on the following day, April 2, with Archbishop Guido Pozzo, the secretary of the Ecclesia Dei commission, to continue talks.