Those of us who thought the pope had said the final word on the Williamson saga will have to think again. It seems to be never-ending.
On Thursday the Vatican officially releases a letter to the world’s bishops in which the pope essentially acknowledges that the Vatican handled the lifting of the excommunications of four ultra-traditionalist bishops very badly and that it hurt him personally that things went awry. (Photo: Pope Benedict at his weekly audience, 11 March 2009/Alessia Pierdomenico)
The story started leaking out on Tuesday night in the blog of Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale and a story with partial excerpts was published in the Italian newspaper Il Foglio on Wednesday. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung printed what it said was the full text in German of the pope’s letter. Our story is based on a face-to-face conversation I had with an Italian archbishop who received the letter. We discussed it over a light meal near St Peter’s Square.
If the leaks and the archbishop’s comment are any indication, the letter may be a sort of first — a pope explaining to his bishops why he did something that some of them contested, at times openly. He talks about his pain and also speaks of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), how he felt that he had to bring them back into the fold because there are good people among them. But the pope also acknowledges how some of them are arrogant and think they know better than everyone else. He says some speak in ways that are discordant with the Church and its teachings. Why do you think the pope felt he had to do this? Was it necessary to write the letter? Will it be interpreted as a sign of weakness or strength? The entire letter will be be on the Vatican’s website tomorrow after 1100 gmt. (Photo: Bishop Richard Williamson, 28 Feb 2007/Jens Falk)
For those of you who read Italian, here is a link to Andrea Tornielli’s blog. For German speakers, here’s today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung text. Following are some excerpts from the German text translated by Reuters: