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The Vatican and the Traditionalists: Chronology of Events


1976- Vatican charter of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's Seminary of St. Pius X is withdrawn. Archbishop Lefebvre is suspended by Pope Paul VI, who subjects him to an emotional outburst-to which Archbishop Lefebvre responds in kind.


1978- A new pope-John Paul II-initiates contact with Archbishop Lefebvre and receives him warmly at the Vatican, expressing the desire to reconcile the French archbishop and his Society of St. Pius X.


1981- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger becomes prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

1984- A papal indult, Quattor Abhinc Annos, is issued to all the bishops of the world, authorizing them to re-introduce the Latin Mass according to the 1962 Missal at will.

1986- Pope appoints a blue-ribbon advisory commission of cardinals-including the Secretary of State, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli-to examine the question of the Latin Mass; they conclude unanimously that the old ritual was never abrogated and priests have a right to use it. Informal talks (never absent) are intensified with Archbishop Lefebvre.

1986- Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Lefebvre reach a deal to regularize the burgeoning Society of St. Pius X-allowing the SSPX to maintain its own schools, seminaries, and convents, and to solemnize marriages. But Archbishop Lefebvre quickly retracts his agreement and expresses new mistrust of Rome. He is declared excommunicated latae sententiae, but the Pope also issues Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, a motu proprio recognizing the “rightful aspirations” of the faithful who wish to attend Mass in the old rite and encouraging bishops to accommodate them.

1988- The Fraternity of St. Peter is established by the Pope to train priests in the old rite and minister to traditionalist flocks worldwide. He also establishes a papal commission, Ecclesia Dei, to safeguard the right of Catholics to attend Mass using the Missal of 1962.

1988-98- The Fraternity of St. Peter's small army of priests, when combined with various other traditionalist orders, grows to serve close to 1 million faithful, by Vatican estimate (which includes the Society of St. Pius X's communities as well).

1998- Pope John Paul II convenes a special audience for thousands of traditionalist priests and faithful at St.Peter's, anticipating his Jubilee Year efforts to reconcile Archbishop Lefebvre's order through a new round of negotiations with Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos

2002- Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos consecrates the first bishop since Vatican II exclusively for a traditionalist community in Campos, Brazil, serving more than 30,000 faithful in that diocese alone. The traditionalist bishop answers directly to Rome and not to the diocesan ordinary-a situation virtually unique in the history of the Church.

2003- Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos celebrates the Old Mass in St. Mary Major, one of Rome's major basilicas, and delivers a rousing sermon insisting that Catholic traditionalists cannot be treated as if they were “second class citizens.”

2005- Pope Benedict XVI is elected, with known sympathy for lifting all restrictions on the old Mass.



Copyright © 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved