Apostolic Letter given Motu
Proprio, 2 July 2009
This document concerns the
structure of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" which deals with
questions involving the Society of Saint Pius X and which as of now
becomes dependent upon the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
This is a translation from the Italian, provided by the Vatican
Information Service. The original text of the Motu Proprio is written in Latin.
1. The duty to safeguard the unity of the Church, with the solicitude
to offer everyone help in responding appropriately to this vocation and
divine grace, is the particular responsibility of the Successor of the
Apostle Peter, who is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation
of the unity of both bishops and faithful. The supreme and fundamental
priority of the Church in all times
to lead mankind to the meeting with God
must be supported by the commitment to achieve a shared witness of faith
among all Christians.
2. Faithful to this mandate, following the act of 30 June 1988 by
which Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre illicitly conferred episcopal
ordination upon four priests, on 2 July 1988 Pope John Paul II of
venerable memory established the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei"
whose task it is "to collaborate with the bishops, with the departments
of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, for the purpose of
facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious
communities or individuals until now linked in various ways to the
Society founded by Msgr. Lefebvre, who may wish to remain united to the
Successor Peter in the Catholic Church, while preserving their spiritual
and liturgical traditions, in the light of the Protocol signed on 5 May
last by Cardinal Ratzinger and Msgr. Lefebvre".
3. In keeping with this, faithfully adhering to that duty to serve
the universal communion of the Church, also in her visible
manifestation, and making every effort to ensure that those who truly
desire unity have the possibility to remain in it or to rediscover it, I
decided, with the Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum", to expand and
update through more precise and detailed norms the general indications
already contained in the Motu Proprio "Ecclesia Dei" concerning the
possibility of using the 1962 "Missale Romanum".
4. In the same spirit, and with the same commitment to favouring the
repair of all fractures and divisions within the Church, and to healing
a wound that is ever more painfully felt within the ecclesiastical
structure, I decided to remit the excommunication of the four bishops
illicitly ordained by Msgr. Lefebvre. In making that decision my
intention was to remove an impediment that could hinder the opening of a
door to dialogue and thus invite the four bishops and the Society of
Saint Pius X to rediscover the path to full communion with the Church.
As I explained in my Letter to Catholic bishops of 10 March this year,
the remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the field of
ecclesiastical discipline, to free individuals from the burden of
conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties.
However it is clear that the doctrinal questions remain, and until they
are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its
ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.
5. Precisely because the problems that now have to be examined with
the Society are essentially doctrinal in nature, I have decided
twenty-one years after the Motu Proprio "Ecclesia Dei" and in keeping
with what I had intended to do
to reconsider the structure of the Commission "Ecclesia Dei", joining it
closely to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
6. The Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" will, then, have the
(a) The president of the Commission is the prefect of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
(b) The Commission has its own staff, composed of the secretary and
(c) It will be the task of the president, with the assistance of the
secretary, to submit the principal cases and questions of a doctrinal
nature for study and discernment according to the ordinary requirements
of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and to submit the
results thereof to the superior dispositions of the Supreme Pontiff.
7. With this decision I wish in particular to show paternal
solicitude towards the Society of Saint Pius X, with the aim of
rediscovering the full communion of the Church.
To everyone I address a pressing invitation to pray ceaselessly to
the Lord, by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "ut unum sint".
From Rome, at St. Peter's, 2 July 2009, fifth year of Our