Pope Restructures "Ecclesia Dei"


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VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2009 ( Benedict XVI restructured the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei," uniting it more closely to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to aid its mission of doctrinal dialogue.

The Pope accomplished this through a letter issued "motu propio" (on his own initiative) today.

The document, "Ecclesiae Unitatem," restructured the commission, which was formed in 1988 for those communities and persons who, coming from the Society of St. Pius X or from similar groups, wish to return to full communion with the Successor of Peter.

The letter states that the president of the commission will now be the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, currently Cardinal William Levada.

In a Vatican communiqué, Cardinal Levada explained that with this document, "the Holy Father desired to demonstrate particular and paternal solicitude toward the Society of St. Pius X in order to overcome the difficulties that still remain to achieving full communion with the Church."

The commission is now comprised of various officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a secretary.

According to another Vatican communiqué today, the Holy Father appointed as secretary Monsignor Guido Pozzo, who is currently adjunct secretary of the International Theological Commission and official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Benedict XVI's letter stated that the president of the commission has the responsibility of submitting "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."

The new president of the commission thanked the Pope for his "trust demonstrated in this decision" and assured him, on behalf of the officials of the congregation, of his commitment to doctrinal dialogue with the Society of St. Pius X.

The Pontiff also expressed gratitude, through a letter handwritten by himself, to Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, former president of the commission, for his "great dedication to the work of 'Ecclesia Dei.'"

Cardinal Castrillón, who celebrated his 80th birthday Saturday, is retiring from the commission. A native of Medellin, Colombia, he also served as the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy from 1996 to 2006.

Essential questions

The linking of the Commission "Ecclesia Dei" to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had already been announced in the March 10 letter that Benedict XVI addressed to the bishops of the Church.

In this letter he explained the reasons and the facts surrounding the lifting of the excommunication of bishops illegally ordained in 1988 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

That letter had already indicated that, with the linking of the commission and the congregation, the Pope seeks to clarify that "the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the Popes."

"Unitatem Ecclesiae" once again explains these reasons for the restructuring of the commission.

It indicates that the lifting of the excommunication of the four Lefebvrite bishops "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."

At the same time, it states that "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."

In a June 17 press release, the Holy See emphasized that the commission's new structure "constitutes a premise for launching dialogue with the leaders of the Society of St. Pius X, with a view to clarifying the doctrinal questions, and consequently the disciplinary questions, which remain unresolved."

With this statement the Vatican confirmed that the priestly ordinations that took place in the Society of St. Pius X at the end of June are not legitimate.