DICI: Your Excellency, you requested an
audience with Pope Benedict XVI which took place last August 29.
What was the purpose of your request?
BISHOP FELLAY: We wanted to meet the
Holy Father because we are Catholic and, like all Catholics, we
are attached to Rome. By requesting this audience we wanted to
show, quite simply, that we are Catholics.
Our recognition of the pope is not limited to
the mention of his name in the Canon of the Mass, which is said by
every priest of the Society of St. Pius X. It is normal that, as
Roman Catholics, we should express our deference. Catholic means
universal, and the Mystical Body of the Church is not limited to
We also seek to call the attention of the
Sovereign Pontiff to the existence of the Tradition. We wish to
remind him that the Tradition is the Church, and that we incarnate
the Church’s utterly Living Tradition. We want to show that the
Church would be much stronger in today’s world if it maintained
the Tradition. We want thus to bring forth our experience: if the
Church wants to get out of the tragic crisis it is presently going
through, then the Tradition is a solution, indeed the only
DICI: How did the audience go?
BISHOP FELLAY: The audience took place
in the pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. Scheduled for
11:30 a.m., it actually began at 12:10 p.m., in the Sovereign
Pontiff’s office. He generally grants an audience of 15 minutes to
a bishop. For us, the audience lasted 35 minutes. This means - so say the Vatican specialists
that Benedict XVI wanted to
demonstrate his interest in these questions.
There were four of us: the Holy Father and
Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, Fr. Schmidberger and myself. The
conversation took place in French - contrary to the announcement by some that it would take place in
German. The pope himself led the conversation in a benevolent
ambiance. He spoke of three difficulties, in response to the note
we had sent him shortly before the audience. Benedict XVI had
obviously read the note, and it was not necessary to go over the
points brought up in it.
We had, in the note, given a description of the
Church, quoting "silent apostasy" from John Paul II,
"the boat which
is taking in water from every side"
dictatorship of relativism"
from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and we had appended photos of
certain very scandalous Masses.
We also presented
the Society, quoting figures and various achievements. We gave two
examples of actions carried out by the Society in the current
world, and the unbelievable attitude of the local bishoprics
towards them: the lawsuit in Argentina which resulted in the
banning of the sale of contraceptives, and which earned for us the
name of terrorists from the bishopric of Cordoba; and the
denunciation of a gay pride parade in Lucerne, which ended
with a Protestant service in a Catholic church - all this to the complete indifference of the bishop.
expressed our requests: that hostility towards the Tradition,
which makes traditional Catholic life (is there any other?)
practically impossible in the conciliar Church, be changed. We
asked that this be done by granting full liberty to the Tridentine
Mass, by silencing the accusation of schism directed against us,
by dropping the alleged excommunications, and by finding an
ecclesial structure for the family of Tradition.
DICI: Is it
possible for us to know the difficulties raised by Benedict XVI?
I can only evoke them. First of all, the Holy Father insisted
on effective recognition of the pope, linking it to the necessity
of consecrating bishops as pleaded by Archbishop Lefebvre, and our
Then Benedict XVI
pointed out that there can be only one way of belonging to the
Catholic Church: i.e., by having the spirit of Vatican II
interpreted in the light of Tradition, that is to say according to
the intention of the Fathers of the Council and the letter of the
text. This is a perspective that rather frightens us….
Finally, we would
have to have, thinks the Sovereign Pontiff, a suitable structure
for the traditional rite and certain exterior practices - without, however, protecting us from
the spirit of the Council that we would have to adopt.
Vatican Press Release at the end of the audience speaks of a
to proceed in stages and within reasonable time limits."
What are we to understand by this expression?
The pope did not want to attack the problems, but simply to sketch
them. It will indeed be necessary first of all to deal with the
question of the right to the old Mass, and take up the errors of
the Council afterwards, for we see there the cause of the present
evils - both a direct cause and in part
an indirect cause.
Of course we will
go step by step. We must show the council in a different light
from that which is given by Rome. In denouncing the errors, it is
indispensable for us to show their logical consequences and their
impact on the disastrous situation of today’s Church, without,
however, provoking exasperation that could cause the discussions
to be broken off. This obliges us to proceed by stages.
With respect to
reasonable time limits, it is said in Rome that documents are in
preparation for communities attached to the Ecclesia Dei
Commission - something quite new, never
seen before. "Let
us wait and see!" It is
certainly true that the pope wants to settle this situation
In order to be
entirely fair, I would like to add this further detail. We must
consider the pope’s difficult situation. He is stuck between the
progressives on one side and us on the other. If he grants general
permission for the Mass on the basis on our request alone, the
modernists will rise up, saying that the pope has given in to
traditionalists. We learned from Bishop Ricard that in 2000 he
himself, along with Cardinal Lustiger and the Archbishop of Lyon,
rushed to Rome to forestall concessions to the Society, under
threat of rebellion. We know that the German bishops acted in the
same way at the time of the World Youth Conference in Cologne:
us or them." By this is
they are recognized, we will leave the Church and create a
So the pope could
not, during the audience, give us verbal assurance that this Fall,
for example, the Mass would be freed. Any promise made by him to
the Society in this sense would inevitably expose him to pressure
by the progressives. We would then have received the views of a
pope against a majority of bishops inclined to secede. This cannot
be envisaged in the midst of the current debacle, even given
desire for a certain restoration. Personally, I believe that only
limited freedom will perhaps be conceded.
press has published rumors concerning divisions within the Society
of St. Pius X. What is exactly the case?
The announcement of the audience granted by the pope has provoked
feverish talk in the media, which made a lot of noise, attempting
to show that divisions exist in the Society among its four
bishops. Journalists have also published the threats directed
against the pope by the progressives:
grant freedom to the Mass is to disavow Paul VI and the liturgical
I can however
affirm that within the Society of St. Pius X, the four bishops
are united on the question of the relationship with Rome, and that
Bishop Williamson, whose name has been quoted, is not "sedevacantist".
The media has nothing to worry about. Alas, this for them is not
Excellency, what do you now hope for?
Some cardinals in Rome hope to see Tradition recognized. We hope
for that too. We hope, in particular, for complete freedom to be
granted to the Mass, but there is little chance that this will
come tomorrow. It will then be our duty to demonstrate the place
of Tradition in the Church, avoiding the misinterpretations that
are often given of it.
We must get the
Roman authorities to admit that we cannot follow without serious
reservations the interpretation given of the Council and of
Ecumenism, as it is practiced. Deep down, what we hope for is to
make them understand one day the whole reason for Tradition.