(A traditionalist priest prays during an SSPX ordination ceremony in Econe, southwest Switzerland June 29, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)

An ultra-traditionalist Roman Catholic splinter group has provided an “encouraging” response to Vatican demands that they accept non-negotiable doctrinal principles as a condition for their full re-entry into the Church.

The Vatican said on Wednesday it had received an answer from the dissident Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) to the Holy See’s ultimatum a month ago that the group clarify its doctrinal position or risk a painful break with Rome. “The response is encouraging, it is a step forward,” said Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.

He said the Vatican’s doctrinal department, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, would study the response, formulate a position and pass its recommendation to Pope Benedict.

The Swiss-based SSPX, which rejects some of the reforms made at the historic 1962 Second Vatican Council, defied Rome in 1988 by illegally consecrating four bishops, triggering their excommunication by the late Pope John Paul.