The stalemate between Catholic traditionalists, those opposing innovations from the Second Vatican Council, and Rome appears to be resolved on at least one front, according to several reports.
On Jan. 18, in Campos Brazil, a group of 28,000 Roman Catholic traditionalists reunified with Rome. Their bishop, Licinio Rangel had been consecrated in 1991 by bishops themselves consecrated in 1988 by the leading figure of the traditionalist movement, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The group in Brazil had been involved in the negotiations which began in the year 2000 between the traditionalists and Rome. However, while the discussions with the Society of St. Pius X have remained at a standstill since mid-2001, they continued with the group in Campos.
The Brazilians have received permission to celebrate the Latin Mass in the traditional rite. In addition, their bishop will be the head of the Apostolic Administration of St. Jean-Marie Vianney. The traditionalist faithful will be part of that Apostolic Administration (limited to the territory of the Diocese of Campos), which will depend directly from the Pope.
In a letter written on Christmas day to Bishop Rangel, the Pope also promised that he would provide for a successor to the Brazilian bishop. The current head of the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay regretted that there had been a separate agreement, but acknowledged the fact that a kind of diocesan-like structure had been granted for the first time to traditionalists. In an official communique released on January 16 as well as in several interviews, Bishop Fellay stated that the Society of St. Pius X would monitor very carefully the developments in Brazil.
In an interview with RW, French expert Luc Perrin of the University of Strasbourg explained that the event could indeed be very significant and that the Apostolic Administration might actually be the best solution for protecting the interests of traditionalists reuniting with Rome. As reported by Fides news agency (Jan. 18), the current bishop of Campos played a key role in creating trust between both sides, underlined Perrin. While the Pope is eager to find a solution, there are people against any agreement in Rome as well as in the Society of St. Pius X.
According to figures given by Bishop Fellay himself to the Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger (Jan. 5), there are currently around 150,000 traditionalists following the Society of St. Pius X worldwide. In recent years, it has established new outposts in non Western countries. Not only liturgical issues are at stake: the traditionalists are very critical of other developments in the Roman Catholic Church, and strongly condemned the recent interreligious gathering at Assisi, for instance.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer