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Pope to lift traditionalists excommunication - report
VATICAN CITY |
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict will soon lift the excommunication on four traditionalist bishops, in his latest attempt to heal a 20-year-old schism in the Roman Catholic Church, an Italian paper said on Thursday.
Il Giornale said a papal decree lifting the excommunications against the leaders of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), would most likely be announced this weekend.
It would be a major gesture by Benedict to resolve a crisis in the Church that surfaced in 1998, when the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre illegally consecrated four bishops without the requisite permission of the late Pope John Paul.
The result was their self-imposed excommunication, or a total cut-off from the Church, which was later made formal by a Vatican decree.
The group, which has about a million followers compared to 1.1 billion for the official Church, keeps the old Latin Mass and rejects the validity of other religions.
It also rejects some of the reforms of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, which, among other things, introduced the Mass in the local language and encouraged dialogue with other religions.
The decree lifting the excommunication of the four bishops, something they have been demanding for years in order to accelerate dialogue with the Vatican, is the latest of several gestures by the pope to the schismatic group.
Benedict has already granted another concession -- allowing the unconditional return of the old-style Latin Mass. But that move angered Jews because the Mass includes a Good Friday prayer for their conversion.
Several years ago, Father Franz Schmidberger, a top SSPX official who was Lefebvre's right-hand man, said Benedict should tell Jews and members of other religions to convert because they are part of "false systems".
Since his election in 2005, Benedict has made several statements which his critics have seen as proclaiming the supremacy of Roman Catholicism over all other religions.
One of the best-known traditionalist Catholics is American actor Mel Gibson but it is not clear if he supports the SSPX, which is based at the rebel seminary Lefebvre ran in Switzerland.
The group has said they want to remain part of the Church but want their own legal status within it so they can carry on with their traditional services.
There has been speculation they could be given a "personal prelature" similar to that given by the late Pope John Paul to the conservative group Opus Dei. This would allow them to answer to their own leader rather than to a local bishop.
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