Cardinals’ meeting on March 23

Source: FSSPX News


On March 23, on the eve of the consistory during which he would create fifteen new cardinals, Benedict XVI gathered together the cardinals of the Church. After a brief address by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, the pope expressed “his gratitude to the cardinals for their participation in the meeting", said the communiqué from the Holy See. According to the Holy Father, this meeting, "on the eve of the consistory, gives us the opportunity to spend some time together, praying and reflecting in this spirit of unity and communion which must be characteristic of any Church meeting, and the more so when those who are meeting have been called by the Lord to important charges in his Church". The pope also assured those cardinals who were unable to attend, of his warm thoughts.

Then, the Sovereign Pontiff introduced the four questions to be studied during the two meetings of the day – from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm and from 5:00 pm to 7: pm – and he invited the cardinals to feel free to intervene. The participants at the meeting were not allowed to reveal the contents of these interventions, so Bishop Jean-Pierre Ricard, one of the fifteen new cardinals, merely listed the four questions on the agenda to the press agency I.Media: "the situation of emeritus-bishops, the traditionalists and especially the Lefebvrites, Islam, and lastly the liturgical books". The four topics were then introduced by members of the Curia, respectively Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State of the Holy See and Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

During the morning, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos spoke about the disciples of Archbishop Lefebrve. On this  subject, twenty cardinals intervened, said the communiqué. Benedict XVI listened to the cardinal’s opinions without comment, but made notes.

Work continued in the afternoon on the other topics with interventions by Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State of the Holy See, the communiqué concluded, giving no details as to the contents of the speeches. After having listened to his counsellors, the pope made "an optimal synthesis of the issues tackled", declared Cardinal Julian Herranz, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

At the end of the day, the cardinals showed great discretion, but were happy with their meeting of reflection with Benedict XVI. Some confided their opinions on certain topics broached during the cardinals’ meeting, to the journalists waiting outside of the Synod Hall.

Asked about the future prospects for relations with the disciples of Archbishop Lefebvre, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos declared: "The Church is waiting for them with open arms". Concerning the mode of their reintegration into the Catholic Church, he specified: "we are currently studying the best formula" for this. For his part, cardinal Medina Estevez, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, wanted to emphasise that a clear distinction should be made between  traditionalists who were members of the Catholic Church, and the disciples of Archbishop Lefebvre, the confusion between the two,according to him, being very frequent.

According to various accounts, the cardinals manifested many differences of opinion. According to the Archbishop of Bordeaux, Jean-Pierre Ricard, some expressed their desire for a rapprochement without hiding the obstacles. The South-African Cardinal Wilfrid F. Napier, archbishop of Durban, declared to the American press agency CNS that he did not think Benedict XVI was looking for a "yes or no" from the cardinals. According to the prelate, the situation of the "Lefebvrites" which differs from one country to another, demands a "thorough" inquiry, before any solution can be found.

The Corriere della Sera of March 24, revealed that Cardinals Lustiger, Ricard and Cottier, had proposed to offer to the SSPX of the status of a Society of apostolic life and not a personal prelature which would exempt its priests from the authority of the diocesan bishops, as is the case with Opus Dei.

Concerning the question of the canonical structure which would be proposed to the SSPX, it would be useful to go back to the interview recently granted to DICI(n° 132)  by Bishop Bernard Fellay. The Superior General of the SSPX states that a canonical regularization will only take place after the fulfillment of the two preliminary conditions (withdrawal of the decree of excommunication and freedom for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass) and discussions on the doctrinal issues.