Decree Lifting Traditionalist Bishops' Excommunication

"A Sign for the Promotion of Unity in Charity"

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the decree released Saturday by the Congregation for Bishops, advising of the lifting of excommunication of the four bishops ordained without papal permission by Marcel Lefebvre in 1988.

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With a letter of Dec. 15, 2008, sent to His Eminence Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Monsignor Bernard Fellay, in his name and in that of the other bishops consecrated June 30, 1988, again requested the lifting of the excommunication latae sententiae formally declared by decree of the prefect of this Congregation for Bishops on July 1, 1988.

In the mentioned letter, Monsignor Fellay affirms, among other things:

"We are always fervently determined in the will to be and to remain Catholics and to place all of our strength at the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept all of her teachings with a filial spirit. We firmly believe in the primacy of Peter and in his prerogatives and because of this, the present situation makes us suffer so much."

His Holiness Benedict XVI, paternally sensitive to the spiritual unrest manifested by the interested parties because of the sanction of excommunication, and trusting in the commitment expressed by them in the cited letter to spare no effort in going deeper in the necessary conversations with the authorities of the Holy See in matters still unresolved, and to be able to thus arrive quickly to a full and satisfactory solution of the problem existing from the beginning, has decided to reconsider the canonical situation of the bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, which arose with their episcopal consecration.

With this act it is desired to consolidate the mutual relations of trust, [and] to intensify and make more stable the relationship of the Fraternity of St. Pius X with the Apostolic See. This gift of peace, at the end of the celebrations of Christmas, also aims to be a sign for the promotion of unity in charity of the universal Church, and with this means, come to remove the scandal of division.

It is desired that this step be followed by the solicitous fulfillment of full communion with the Church of the Society of St. Pius X, thereby witnessing to authentic fidelity and a true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the Pope, with the proof of visible unity.

In virtue of the faculties that have been expressly conceded to me by the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, in virtue of the present decree, I lift from Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta the censure of excommunication latae sententiae declared by this congregation on July 1, 1988, and declare void of juridical effects beginning today the decree published then.

Rome, Congregation for the Bishops,


Jan. 21, 2009

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops

[Translation by ZENIT]