The Vatican’s official spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi S.J., has issued the following statement on the letter Pope Benedict has sent to Roman Catholic bishops around the world about the controversy over the readmission of four excommunicated ultre-traditionalist bishops to the Church. In view of the controversy surrounding that step and the Vatican’s admittedly clumsy handling of its announcement, we wanted to run the statement in full below. Again, any comments on how you see this controversy are welcome. (Photo: rev. Federico Lombardi, 13 June 2007/Herbert Neubauer)
The difficult commitment to reconciliation
The “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre” is definitely an unusual document and deserves all our attention. Never before in his Pontificate has Benedict XVI expressed himself in such a personal manner and intensity on a controversial subject. There isn’t the slightest doubt: this Letter bears his mark, from beginning to end.
The Pope has lived this event, the remission of the excommunication, and the following reactions with an involvement and suffering that are manifest. He speaks of a “discussion more heated than any we have seen for a long time”, and has felt the need to intervene to “contribute to peace in the Church”, a peace that has been disturbed.
With his usual lucidity and humility, he recognises the shortcomings and the mistakes which have had a negative influence on the course of events; and with great nobility, he doesn’t make others shoulder the responsibility, thus showing his solidarity with his collaborators. He speaks of insufficient information pertaining to the Williamson case, and lack of clarity in presenting the measure of remission of excommunication and about its meaning. However, this is not the most significant aspect of his reflexions.