Vatican, Brazil Traditionalist Group End Schism. (World)

By Allen, John L., Jr. | National Catholic Reporter, January 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

Vatican, Brazil Traditionalist Group End Schism. (World)


Allen, John L., Jr., National Catholic Reporter


In a partial healing of the schism involving the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Pope John Paul II has reintegrated into the Catholic church a rebel group of 27 traditionalist priests in the diocese of Campos, Brazil, along with their illicitly ordained bishop and some 15,000-30,000 faithful.

As NCR went to press, a ceremony of reconciliation was to be held Jan. 18 at the Campos cathedral, celebrated by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Vatican's congregation for the clergy. Castrillon, frequently touted as a papabile, or candidate to be the next pope, also heads the Ecclesia Dei commission for traditional Catholics created in 1988.

As part of the settlement, the group, the Priestly Society of St. John Vianney, has been given the canonical structure of an "apostolic administration," a reportedly unprecedented step to heal a schism. The structure is a quasi-diocese in which clergy and faithful come under the jurisdiction of an apostolic administrator, who enjoys the rights and powers of a diocesan bishop.

In this case, the administration is "personal" rather than territorial, meaning that it can operate within the boundaries of other Brazilian dioceses. In effect, the move allows Brazilian Catholics to switch dioceses without physically moving.

For 20 years, the Brazilian traditionalists were allied with the schismatic movement of Lefebvre, who rejected reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), above all the switch from the Latin Mass to local languages.

However, while the Lefebvrite Society of St. Pius X, which claims 160,000 members in 40 countries, has spurned recent Vatican overtures to end the schism, the Brazilians decided to make a separate peace (NCR, Jan. 11).

The decision generated a rift in the traditionalist Catholic movement. NCR has learned that the leader of the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, traveled from his headquarters in Switzerland to Campos last fall to attempt to dissuade the Brazilians from accepting the Vatican offer, arguing that the two groups should act together.

A source in the St. John Vianney society told NCR that while the Brazilians rejected the advice, they remain on "friendly terms" with the Lefebvrites.

The Jan. 18 ceremony was to consist of the reading of the papal decree erecting the apostolic administration, plus the singing of the "Te Deum," a traditional hymn of thanksgiving. It was to be followed by a Marian devotion.

In addition to Castrillon, according to the society, participants were expected to include the apostolic nuncio in Brazil, Archbishop Alfio Rapisarda, Cardinal Eugenio de Araujo Sales de of Rio de Janeiro, and the bishop and priests of the diocese of Campos.

The new apostolic administrator will be Bishop Licinio Rangel, ordained in 1991 by three of the four bishops Lefebvre created in 1988. Though the Vatican regarded Rangel's ordination as illicit at the time, his status as a bishop will now be recognized. …

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