BY SIMON CALDWELL
THE VATICAN is to enter talks with the Society of St Pius X, a traditionalist group which has separated from Rome, amid renewed controversy over the rehabilitation of a bishop who denied the extent of the Holocaust.
A high-powered delegation will sit down with Lefebvrists in October to discuss a range of doctrinal issues which remain obstacles to full unity.
But the talks could be over shadowed by claims by that the Vatican knew that Bishop Richard Williamson had publicly denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers before his excommunication was lifted by Pope Benedict XVI in March.
Vatican observers say the so-called rehabilitation of a “Holocaust-denying bishop” represented a low point in the papacy of the German Pontiff, who quickly sought to make amends by visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Me morial in Israel. In a letter to the world’s bishops he said he was unaware of the views of Williamson, an English bishop illicitly ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988, when he reversed his excommunication in a gesture aimed at helping to bring Lefebvrists into full communion with the Catholic Church.
In an interview due to be broadcast on Sweden’s SVT channel on Wednesday Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm said: “From our side we passed the information on. That is so to say the usual way of doing it, the local Church passes important news about the Church on to the papal representation.” German Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, also told the programme that he thought Williamson’s Continued on Page 2 Continued from Page 1 opinions were widely known within the Vatican.
The delegation that will meet the Lefebvrists includes Swiss Dominican Fr Charles Morerod, secretary general of the International Theological Commission, German Jesuit Fr Josef Becker, a Second Vatican Council scholar, and Paris-born Fr Ocariz Brana, the vicar general of Opus Dei and an internationally respected theologian.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna said “the SSPX will be told very clearly what is not negotiable for the Holy See” including Vatican “positions on Judaism”.
But Bishop Bernard Fellay, the SSPX superior general, has indicated that the Lefebvrists are hardening their positions. He told Angelus, a US-based SSPX magazine, that he would be willing to ordain bishops for the society without the permission of the Vatican, the act that led Pope John Paul to excommunicate Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers in 1988.
“If the same circumstances and the same necessity arose again, and if there were no other possibilities, we would do it,” Bishop Fellay said.
“But I do not think these circumstances are yet present,” he added. “For the time being three bishops can manage... but, simply, if we arrived at the same necessity we would have the same solution.”