Fr. Nély has been Second Assistant to Bishop Fellay, Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, for over ten years. His work causes him to travel the world he often finds himself in Rome.
Interview conducted by Anne Le Pape for Présent.
ALP: Father, you have to travel a lot for your duties; can you tell us about some unique encountersduring your travels?
You do indeed have some surprising meetings on airplanes or in airports. The ecclesiastical garb I wear lets everyone I meet know who they are talking to. Sometimes – I remember this happening in the Tokyo airport or the Zurich airport – I happened to meet bishops, who react more or less well, or priests who come to see me, wanting to talk, wanting to learn about the Society. But we go from the airport to the priory and from the priory to the airport on a tight schedule, which leaves little room for unexpected encounters.
I do remember one meeting during my last visit to Vanuatu, last February. We have just opened a mission in a village there and I wanted to meet the local bishop to get to know him. So I arrive in the courtyard of the bishop’s palace with Fr. Bockholtz, who is in charge of Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and New Zealand. I see a heavy-set gentleman in a blue tank top, with sandals on his bare feet. I tell him I’m from the Society of St. Pius X and would like to meet the bishop.
“Oh no! He wants nothing to do with you,” he answers, “you are outside of the Church…”
“But who are you?” I ask him. “I’m the bishop…”
“Your Excellency, I’m sorry, I’m Fr. Nély, the Second Assistant, etc.”
“But you are coming into my diocese to stir up trouble,” he tells me.
I retort: “I met with the Holy Father a couple days ago, and he was much more pleasant than you!”.
I show him a picture of me with Pope Francis. His attitude immediately changed, and he said that for now he would tolerate us, and that was the end of our meeting. I promised to send him a postcard from Rome next time I go…
ALP: About your conversations with Rome, do you feel, after the advances made by Pope Francis (regarding confessions, marriages…), that there has been a change in the bishops’ attitude towards the Society?
Two bishops in France have given to the Society all power for marriages: Bishop Planet, the bishop of Carcassone, and Bishop Rey, the bishop of Toulon. A bishop in New Zealand has also done so, and the Nuncio in Argentina has written to all the bishops asking them to give the Society full freedom.
ALP: Are these not important advances?
Indeed! We are in the process of drafting some guidelines to explain the contents of this document and to what extent we have to apply it in accordance with the will of the Holy Father. I think it will take a few months for things to be clearly understood by the priests and the faithful, because it is a relatively new situation.
ALP: Without asking you to spill any secrets, I can’t help but ask: everyone is wondering about a declaration from the pope concerning the Society…There was talk of May 13 in Fatima; now people say July 7, the anniversary of the motu proprio that freed the traditional Mass. Is the rumor based on anything solid?
I have heard talk of these two possible dates. I do not see on the basis. They said Fatima because the pope knows that the priests of the Society have a great devotion to Fatima. As for July 7, we know nothing about that either; but anything can happen. But we do not see why there is talk of those two dates for this declaration.
ALP: Isn’t the Society seeking to acquire a house right in the center of Rome, closer than the priory of Albano, which is a little out of the way?
That is nothing new; when I was named superior of Italy in 2004, one of my absolute priorities was to find a place in Rome, especially a more visible church than the one situated between St. Mary Major and Termini, on the Via Urbana, where we have celebrated Mass for about thirty years. It is a furnished room that can barely hold fifty people. In 2006, when I was elected Second Assistant, Fr. Pagliarani became superior of the District of Italy, and continued looking. Then his successor, Fr. Petrucci, did the same.
At present, we have our eyes on three properties that would each allow us to settle in Rome. The General House would remain in Menzingen, but it would be good to have a house in Rome, a “procura” to use the customary term, just like all the other congregations.
What we want more is to have an Institute, a university center, a place we could give lectures, the equivalent of what we do in Paris with the Institute of St. Pius X.
So yes, we are looking for a place in Rome where we could have a house attached to the General House, a beautiful church, and university premises. We must pray for this project to become a reality!
ALP: Do the facilities granted to the Society by the pope for confessions and marriages also apply to the “friendly congregations” in the same way?
In principle, everything to do with the Society of St. Pius X also has to do with the friendly communities. That is provided for in the drafts for the statutes of the prelature. It is clear that the Society is not a separate entity from those who continue to follow her in the present fight.
ALP: Would you like to add something for the readers of Présent… a newspaper that you yourself once sold, I believe, in the subway?
Yes, with the founders, who were close friends, Bernard Antony, Max Champoiseau, at the Opéra metro; I remember that well! It was a monthly paper, before the daily paper was founded. I also knew Jean Madiran well…Those are memories that remain profoundly engraved in my memory.
And I encourage Présent, of course, to continue this difficult work it is accomplishing, free from all servitude, and I encourage its readers to support it actively.