(Bishop Bernard Fellay gestures after a priests and deacons ordination ceremony in Econe, Switzerland  June 29, 2012. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)

Pope Benedict’s bid to draw rebel Catholic traditionalists back to the Roman fold, a major effort that has divided Catholics and sometimes embarrassed him, seems to have hit a dead end with little apparent hope of a solution.

Two leaders of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), which broke away over reforms of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, have recently rejected his conditions for their rehabilitation after a series of contacts following his 2005 election as pope.

SSPX head Bishop Bernard Fellay, who Church officials expect will send a formal reply to Rome soon, has not yet indicated the group’s final position but it is not expected to be positive.

A formal or de facto SSPX rejection would be a setback for Benedict, whose decision to lift excommunications on its four bishops in 2009 backfired when it emerged one was a notorious Holocaust denier and the Vatican did not even know it.