Pope lifts excommunication of rebel bishops: report

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 22 2009 08:11 PM | Updated as of Jan 23 2009 04:11 AM

ROME - Pope Benedict XVI has decided to cancel the excommunication of four bishops ordained in 1998 by the controversial French bishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Italian daily Il Giornale reported Thursday.

The pope has already signed the decree lifting the excommunication, which will be made public later in the week, said the paper's Vatican specialist Andrea Tornielli, who is considered well-informed on such matters.

The Vatican has neither confirmed nor denied the report.

Lefebvre, who died in 1991, was excommunicated in 1988 by the then pope Jean Paul II for having ordained the bishops in defiance of the Vatican's authority.

Lefebvre led a schism from the Church over the more ecumenical approach reflected in the Vatican II reforms (1962-65) and in particular the abandonment of the traditional Latin mass.

In June last year, his successor Bishop Bernard Fellay rejected overtures from the Vatican for a reconciliation a year after the pope approved the greater use of the old Latin mass, signaling a bid to heal the split.

Since assuming office in April 2005, Benedict has made great efforts to heal the schism with the more traditionalist Catholic movement, granting a private audience to Bishop Fellay in mid-2005.

The Swiss-based Priestly Society of Saint Pius X claims 150,000 followers across the world, mainly in France and Brazil.