May 12, 2014, Monday — A brief meeting

 “Bishop Bernard Fellay, the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X (Fraternité Sacerdotale Saint-Pie X – FSSPX / SSPX), was received by Pope Francis in the Domus Sanctae Marthae sometime in the past few months… The meeting was apparently short and cordial. The Pope has a true interest in resolving this situation, it seems to be understood by our sources.” —A post on the Rorate Caeli website on May 10, 2014 which has generated a lot of internet commentary about a possible “rapprochement” between the Traditional Catholic Society of St. Pius X (the Lefebvrists) and Rome

Two days ago, on May 10, a brief posting on an influential Traditional Catholic blog,, informed the world that a brief meeting — just a handshake and an exchange of two polite phrases — had taken place in recent months between Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the Society of St. Pius X, and Pope Francis in the Domus Santa Marta, where the Pope lives.

Over two days, it has turned into a news story about the possible chances for improved relations between Traditional Catholics and Pope Francis.

That first May 10 post included no details, no date for the meeting, no source for the information that it had occurred, but a suggestion that it was part of an “opening” by Pope Francis and his staff toward Traditionalist Catholics. The post used these words: “The meeting was apparently short and cordial. The Pope has a true interest in resolving this situation, it seems to be understood by our sources.”

Over the past two days, the “blogosphere” has picked up on this brief report and begun to flesh out some of the details.

It seems clear now that the basic facts are as follows:

(1) Pope Francis did meet with Bishop Fellay after lunch at the Domus Santa Marta on December 13, 2013.

(2) But it was not a sit-down meeting, or a scheduled meeting, only a brief encounter to exchange greetings.

A reading of all the reports reveals that the meeting occurred after Bishop Guido Pozzo, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, invited Fellay and two of his assistants, Fathers Niklaus Pfulger and Alain-Marc Nely, as well as Archbishop Augustin Di Noia, Vice-President of the Ecclesia Dei commission, to lunch in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pozzo resides.

The Pope now takes his meals at a table in the corner of the large Domus Sanctae Marthae dining hall. He is able to enter and leave the hall without passing other diners. The usual practice is for other diners not to approach the Pope.

As the Pope got up from his table to leave the dining hall, according to accounts, Bishop Pozzo approached him, bringing with him his guest, Bishop Fellay. A French web site close to Bishop Fellay reports the exchange as follows: “Il y eut un bref échange où François a dit à Mgr Fellay, selon la formule de politesse habituelle, « enchanté de faire votre connaissance » ; à quoi Mgr Fellay a répondu qu’il priait beaucoup, et le pape lui a demandé de prier pour lui. Telle fut cette « rencontre » qui a duré quelques secondes.” (“There was a brief exchange in which Francis said to Monsignor Fellay, in accord with the formula of ordinary politeness, ‘I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance’; to which Monsignor Fellay responded that he was praying a great deal, and the Pope asked Fellay to pray for him. Such was this ‘encounter’ which lasted for a few seconds.”)

3) Therefore, the December 13 meeting between Fellay and Francis, unknown until now, did not extend to a deeper discussion of any of the points of contention between Traditionalist Catholics and Rome.

4) Still, the very fact of the meeting — that  Fellay and his assistants were invited into the house of the Pope, and into the dining room where the Pope dines, and precisely while he was there — suggests that relations between Rome and Bishop Fellay are, indeed, reasonably cordial, so there may be reason to hope that further contacts might lead to improved relations between the two parties.


The Various Blog Posts

Here below, I copy a number of the blog posts from the past 48 hours which have dealt with this story. It seemed useful to put them all into one place and into a chronological order, that is, into the order in which they appeared on the web.

1. Rorate Caeli, Original post, 5/10/14

Rorate has learned and can exclusively confirm that Bishop Bernard Fellay, the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X (Fraternité Sacerdotale Saint-Pie X – FSSPX / SSPX), was received by Pope Francis in the Domus Sanctae Marthae sometime in the past few months. In order to protect our sources, we cannot detail the date and persons involved in the meeting, but only generally locate it in time – if the current pontificate so far can be divided into two halves, the meeting took place in the second half.

We can also add as part of this exclusive information that it was not a merely fortuitous event — that is to say, many off-the-record meetings with His Holiness have taken place since his election precisely because his being at Saint Martha’s House make him much more accessible and available than many previous pontiffs. No, that was not the case at all — the pope was previously duly informed and duly met Bishop Fellay. The meeting was apparently short and cordial.

The Pope has a true interest in resolving this situation, it seems to be understood by our sources.

Note to new readers: the Society of Saint Pius X is a society of common life for priests and the formation of priests founded by Abp. Marcel Lefebvre in 1970, and it was involved in the controversial episcopal ordinations of 1988, in Écône, Switzerland. The penalties incurred by the living parties with that act were rescinded by order of Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. Doctrinal talks were conducted with the Vatican between 2009 and 2011, and the discussions fell through at the last moment on June 13, 2012. The Holy See considers the canonical situation of the Society as irregular and that, “as long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church.”

[When mentioning the content of this item anywhere and in any language, please mention Rorate by name and link to us, as a matter of courtesy. Thank you.]

Update: Italian version by Il Sismografo.



2. Il Sismografo reports on the Rorate Caeli post, later on May 10

Papa Francesco ricevette tempo fa il Superiore della FSSPX, mons. Bernard Fellay (a cura Redazione “Il sismografo”)

(Luis Badilla) Il sito “Rorate Caeli” (blog del “mondo cattolico tradizionalista”) rivela oggi, senza dare molti particolari che, tempo fa, presso la Casa Santa Marta, Papa Francesco ha ricevuto in Udienza il Superiore della Fraternità Sacerdotale San Pio X, mons. Bernard Fellay, con la quale da tempo, in particolare dopo che Benedetto XVI autorizzò la remissione della scomunica a 4 vescovi cosiddetti “lefebvriani” (21 gennaio 2009), mantiene conversazioni piuttosto lunghe e complesse senza approdare a nessun accordo che consenta la fine della separazione. Il blog precisa che per proteggere la sua fonte non può indicare la data dell’incontro, definito “non casuale”, e si limita a parlare di un non meglio precisato secondo periodo del papato se questo può essere diviso in due parti. Nel dire “non casuale” “Rorate Caeli” fa capire dunque che si è trattato di un incontro voluto e programmato. Inoltre, si legge nel post che si trattò di un incontro “breve e cordiale”.


3. Andrea Tornielli, Vatican Insider website, May 11


That brief meeting between Fellay and the Pope
Traditionalist blog “Rorate Caeli” revealed that “sometime in the past few months” Francis received the Superior of the Society of St. Pius X in St. Martha’s House


Yesterday, traditionalist website Rorate Caeli revealed that “sometime in the past few months” Bishop Bernard Fellay, the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, was received BY Pope Francis in St. Martha’s House. No information was given regarding the sources and circumstances surrounding their encounter.

Authoritative religious news blog Il Sismografo, edited by Luis Badilla, reported the news yesterday evening.

Readers will recall that the Holy See’s relations with the fraternity have remained frozen since 2012, when the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Levada, delivered a preamble – approved by Pope Benedict XVI – asking the traditionalist group to sign it, as a condition for entering into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church and gaining legal status with the establishment of a “personal prelacy”. Although the fraternity’s excommunication was lifted in January 2009, disagreements remained over certain doctrinal points and so the status of the Lefebvrian hierarchy and its priests is still irregular. Not only have the leaders of the Society of St. Pius X criticized the Second Vatican Council since Francis took over from Benedict XVI, but they have even written and published some very harsh comments against Pope Francis.

Rorate Caeli writes that for the purposes of protecting its sources, it did not wish to specify the date of the meeting but added “it was not a merely fortuitous event” in the sense that the Pope was informed about Mgr. Fellay’s presence in St. Martha’s House, giving the impression that that meeting had been planned and “apparently short and cordial.”

Vatican Insider has learnt that the meeting apparently took place in the last few weeks of 2013.  Mgr. Fellay was invited to dinner at St. Martha’s House by Bishop Guido Pozzo, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei and Archbishop Augustin Di Noia, Vice- President of the same commission. Father Niklaus Pfulger and Alain-Marc Nely, assistants to the superior general of Society of St. Pius X, were present alongside the traditionalist prelate.

The Pope was sat at his usual table in the St. Martha House dining room; Fellay, his two assistants, Pozzo and Di Noia were sat at another table. When Francis got up after dinner, the fraternity’s superior did so also and approached the Pope, kneeling down to ask for a blessing. Their encounter was therefore brief. There was no audience and neither did the two have a long one-on-one conversation. Living in St. Martha’s House makes these kinds of encounters possible for Francis.

When Mgr. Pozzo returned to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” after a brief time at the office of papal charities, some hoped that dialogue between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X would resume. But some in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are pushing for a new formal document to be signed against the Lefebvrians. Particularly given that dialogue has dragged on for years and the fraternity refused to accept the doctrinal preamble proposed by the Church. For now, however, there seems to be a general desire to wait and see.

The dinner with di Noia and Pozzo and the papal blessing scene is certainly typical of Francis’ welcoming nature. But it would wrong to attribute too much importance to this episode in terms of potential developments in the Lefebvrian situation. Even after this encounter and blessing, websites and media linked to the Society of St. Pius X continued their attacks against the Pope. The latest of these was noted on the day of John XXIII and John Paul II’s canonizations last 27 April.

Mgr. Fellay may not be too happy about Rorate Caeli’s decision to divulge the news. It is a well known fact that there are different currents within his fraternity, some of them more radical and anti- Roman Catholic Church than others. The Swiss prelate, Mgr. Lefebvre’s second successor, seems to be more open to dialogue when he is in Rome. But back in Menzingen he must face the more radical wing within his group.



4. A Spanish-language website pick up the Rorate Caeli and Vatican Insider stories, May 11 (the content is mostly a translation of these two stories)

Francisco recibió en Santa Marta al obispo Bernard Fellay, superior de la Hermandad de San Pío X

Actualizado 11 mayo 2014 

Según informa el blog Rorate Caeli, que es habitualmente fuente segura y de calidad en cuanto a informaciones concernientes al mundo tradicionalista, el Papa recibió al superior general de la Hermandad de San Pío X, Bernard Fellay, en algún momento de los últimos siete meses.

“Breve y cordial”
El encuentro tuvo lugar en la Casa Santa Marta y no fue “fortuito” (desde la elección de Francisco “han tenido lugar muchos encuentros off the record precisamente porque vivir en Casa Santa Marta le hace mucho más accesible y disponible que los pontífices anteriores”): “No, no fue así en absoluto. El Papa fue debidamente informado antes y se encontró con monseñor Fellay formalmente. El encuentro aparentemente fue breve y cordial”. En orden a proteger sus fuentes, Rorate Caeli no precisa las personas que estuvieron presentes ni la fecha exacta, aunque lo sitúa en la segunda mitad del pontificado de Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

Y concluye: “Según parecen entender nuestras fuentes, el Papa tiene un auténtico interés en resolver esta situación”.

A esta noticia desvelada por Rorate Caeli ha añadido después en Vatican Insider el vaticanista Andrea Tornielli que “el encuentro tuvo lugar en las primeras semanas de 2014″, tras una invitación a cenar en Casa Santa Marta que cursaron a monseñor Fellay el obispo Guido Pozzo, secretario de la Pontificia Comisión Ecclesia Dei, y el arzobispo Augustin Di Noia, vicepresidente de dicha comisión (que preside el prefecto de la Doctrina de la Fe, el cardenal Gerhard Müller). Junto con el superior de la Hermandad de San Pío X estaba otro sacerdote de la Fraternidad, el padre Emmanuel De Taveau.

La Hermandad de San Pío X fue fundada por el arzobispo francés Marcel Lefebvre (1905-1991) en 1970 para continuar la formación sacerdotal tal como lo hacía la Iglesia hasta el Concilio Vaticano II. Monseñor Fellay fue uno de los cuatro obispos consagrados por monseñor Lefebvre en 1988 sin permiso del Papa y excomulgados entonces, y a quienes Benedicto XVI levantó dicha pena en 2009. A partir de entonces comenzaron unas conversaciones doctrinales con vistas a un acuerdo canónico que no llegó a producirse, quedando de facto suspendido el proceso a mediados de 2012.

¿”Reconocimiento de tolerancia”?
En una entrevista concedida a Dici, órgano de expresión de la Fraternidad Sacerdotal San Pío X (FSSPX), el pasado 11 de abril, monseñor Fellay declaró que, tras la elección del Papa Francisco, “ha habido una aproximación ´no oficial´ de Roma para retomar el contacto con nosotros, pero nada más, y yo no he solicitado aduciencia como hice tras la elección de Benedicto XVI. En mi opinión, actualmente las cosas son muy simples: estamos como estábamos. Algunos han concluido de los contactos mantenidos en 2012 que yo planteaba como principio supremo la necesidad de un reconocimiento canónico. La conservación de la fe y de nuestra identidad católica tradicional es prioritaria y sigue siendo nuestro primer principio”. Monseñor Fellay aludía así a críticas internas que le acusaron de estar dispuesto a hacer demasiadas cesiones para alcanzar un acuerdo canónico.

Uno de los cuatro obispos, Richard Williamson, expulsado de la Hermandad de San Pío X en 2012 por desobediencia reiterada en ese sentido, declaró el pasado 3 de mayo que Roma habría ofrecido a la FSSPX, y ésta aceptado, “un ´reconocimiento de tolerancia´, sin necesidad de acuerdo formal ni de documento firmado como los que suscitaron tanta oposición en las negociaciones con Roma en la primavera y el verano de 2012”.



5. The I.Media news agency reports on the same story in French, also on May 11


Vatican – le 11/05/2014

FSSPX/Fellay : Mgr Bernard Fellay, supérieur de la fraternité Saint-Pie-X (FSSPX), a brièvement rencontré le pape François à la Maison Sainte-Marthe au Vatican il y a quelques mois, a révélé le site traditionaliste Rorate Caeli le 10 mai 2014 sans plus de précisions. Mgr Fellay, a appris par ailleurs I.MEDIA, était venu au Vatican avec ses assistants, le Suisse Niklaus Pfluger et le Français Alain-Marc Nély, pour une rencontre à la Congrégation pour la doctrine de la foi. A cette occasion, les 2 assistants du supérieur général de la FSSPX avaient assisté à une messe du matin célébrée par le pape François à la Maison Sainte-Marthe, sans pour autant participer à la concélébration. C’est d’ailleurs au même endroit, au réfectoire de la résidence du pape, que Mgr Fellay aurait brièvement salué le pontife à l’issue d’un dîner qu’il partageait avec Mgr Guido Pozzo et Mgr Augustin Di Noia, respectivement secrétaire et vice-président la Commission pontificale Ecclesia Dei, en charge des relations de Rome avec le monde traditionaliste.



6. Rorate Caeli picks up on the I.Media report, and then mentions the Vatican Insider report, still on May 11

Rorate Exclusive: Pope Francis received Bp. Fellay, SSPX Superior General, sometime in the past few months.

UPDATE (05/11/14): I.Media reports that Bishop Fellay came to the Vatican with Frs. Niklaus Pfluger and Alain-Marc Nély (respectively the First and Second Assistants to the Superior General of the SSPX). On this occasion, the two assistants of the Superior General of the SSPX were present at the daily Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at St. Martha House. Afterwards Bishop Fellay dined with Abp. Guido Pozzo and Abp. Augustine Di Noia (respectively the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei and the Adjunct Secretary of the CDF) at the refectory of the same House. At the end of the meal, Bishop Fellay briefly met the Holy Father.

Vatican Insider has another account, with further details — and an acknowledgment of Rorate’s initial report.



7. The Website of the Society of St. Pius X, DICI (Documentation Information Catholiques Internationales), gives an “official” account of the meeting, saying “here are the facts,” on May 12 [the part italicized is the part translated at the beginning, above)

About a “meeting” between the Pope and Bishop Fellay


On May 10, 2014, the English-speaking blog Rorate Caeli published under the pseudonym “Adfero”, some “exclusive information” whose sources could not be – according to him – disclosed. This “exclusive information”, spread by the media, revealed that Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, met with Pope Francis. On May 11, the Roman agency I.Media published that Bp. Fellay’s two assistants, Fr. Niklaus Pfluger and Fr. Marc-Alain Nély, had attended the Pope’s private Mass.

Fathers Pfluger and Nely have never attended the Pope’s private Mass, and journalists who claim otherwise would have a hard time to indicate the day of the alleged assistance. Here are the facts:

On December 13, 2013, Bishop Fellay and his assistants went to Rome for an informal meeting at the request of the Ecclesia Dei Commission. Following this interview, the Secretary of the Commission, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, invited his counterparts for lunch at St. Martha House’s dining room where they were joined by Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, Assistant Secretary of the Congregation of the Faith. It is in this large refectory that the Pope takes his daily meals, away from other guests.

Archbishop Pozzo insisted on introducing Bishop Fellay to the Pope while the latter was leaving the refectory. There was a brief exchange where Pope Francis said to Bishop Fellay, according to the usual polite formula, “I’m very glad to meet you.” To this, Bishop Fellay answered that he was praying a lot, and the Pope asked him to pray for him. Such was the “meeting” that lasted a few seconds.

In the interview he gave to Le Rocher (April-May 2014), Bishop Fellay answered the following question: Has Rome made an official approach to renew contact with you since the election of Pope Francis? – “Rome made a ‘non-official’ approach to renew contact with us, but nothing more, and I have not asked for an audience as I did after Benedict XVI’s election. For me, things at present are very simple: we stay as we are. Some concluded from my close contact with Rome in 2012 that I regard the necessity of a canonical recognition as a supreme principle. Preserving the Faith and our traditional Catholic identity is essential and remains our first principle.”



The Anthropological Question
“You live in a deranged age, more deranged than usual, because, in spite of great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.” —Walker Percy (1916-1990), American Catholic convert and writer, author of The Message in the Bottle and Lost in the Cosmos

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