Breakaway Catholics hope Lourdes changes pope’s views

September 11, 2008

Prayer candles at Lourdes, 5 Nov 2006/Regis DuvignauThe arch-traditionalist Fraternity of Saint Pius X, which broke with Rome two decades ago and saw its bishops excommunicated, hopes Pope Benedict’s visit to Lourdes this weekend will inspire him to roll back the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The SSPX rejects the Council’s opening to other religions and upholds strict adherence to Catholic traditions such as the old Latin Mass. It was encouraged when Pope Benedict allowed wider use of the Tridentine liturgy last year. But in recent talks on possibly reentering the Roman fold, it once again baulked at accepting the authority of a pope who defends the 1962-1965 Council. Many ailing Catholics turn to Lourdes as their last hope for healing after all else fails. Is this a sign the SSPX might see Lourdes as its last hope too?

Rev. Régis de Cacqueray Valmenier, superior of the SSPX’s district in France, stressed in a communique that the breakaway Catholic group welcomed his visit and maintained an“unswerving attachment to the Apostolic See.”

But the rest of his statement made clear it was still at odds with Benedict:

“Let us pray the rosary to the Very Holy Virgin Mary so that the successor of Peter, in this terribly difficult epoch when he must govern the Church, may find at Lourdes the lucidity and the strength to recognise, denounce and extirpate the Council’s errors which are essentially the origin of the crisis in the Church.

“Let us pray that the Catholic faith, outside of which nobody can be saved, shall return to the souls and that Christ the King may reign again over countries and societies.”

SSPX leader Bishop Bernard Fellay basically rejected an ultimatum the Vatican gave it last June to accept papal authority if the fraternity wanted to come back into the Roman fold. In his latest sermon posted on the SSPX website, he argued that he didn’t actually reject any proposals from Rome because there weren’t any serious proposals presented. The Vatican clearly thought they were serious proposals, though, so Fellay seems to be trying to redefine the five points presented to him in order to sideline them without saying so. The rest of the sermon repeated the fraternity’s long-standing position that the Vatican should give in on the Council issue, not the SSPX.

Pope Benedict in his popemobile in New York, 19 April 2008/Chip EastRev. Alain Lorans, the SSPX spokesman in Paris, confirmed that nothing had changed between the fraternity and the Vatican over the summer. He also denied rumours in Paris that SSPX priests would attend the pope’s open-air Mass on Saturday, which would cause quite a stir in Catholic circles here. Admission is open to the Mass on the Esplanade des Invalides, so they could attend it without an invitation.

But the SSPX will mark the pope’s presence with symbolic acts at its main church in Paris, which is close to the Collège des Bernardins where Benedict will address intellectuals. The pope is due to pass it in his popemobile after the speech, on his way to vespers at Notre Dame Cathedral. “Since the pope will pass close by Saint Nicolas du Chardonnet, the church is decked out in the Vatican colours white and yellow. And when the pope passes by the church, the bells will toll,” Lorans said.

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