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Online Edition:
August 2009
Vol. XV, No. 5

Pontifican Commission Ecclesia Dei Becomes Part of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

The anticipated restructuring of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (PCED), incorporating this office into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), was accomplished by Pope Benedict’s July 8 Apostolic Letter Ecclesiae Unitatem (Unity of the Church).

The PCED was established by Pope John Paul II in 1988 to deal with problems involving the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). The effect of Pope Benedict’s new Apostolic Letter is that the PCED will now operate entirely within the CDF.

On the same day, the pope appointed Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to the additional office of president of the PCED; and Monsignor Guido Pozzo, adjunct secretary of the International Theological Commission and an official of the CDF, was appointed Secretary of the PCED.

Cardinal Levada succeeds Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, 80, who had headed the PCED since April 2000. Monsignor Camille Perl, of Luxembourg, had been its secretary since 1988.

Pope Benedict had first announced linking the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a March 10 letter addressed to the bishops of the Church. This letter explained the reasons for lifting the excommunication of four SSPX bishops illegally ordained in 1988 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and the facts surrounding his decision.

The pope’s letter also explained his reason for linking the PCED and the CDF: “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”.

Ecclesiae Unitatem is an Apostolic Letter issued “motu proprio data” (on the pope’s own authority). The text that follows is the Vatican translation.

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Ecclesia Unitatem

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 June 30, 1988 by which Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre illicitly conferred episcopal ordination upon four priests, on July 2, 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 Monsignor Lefebvre, who may wish to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church, while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions, in the light of the Protocol signed on May 5, last by Cardinal Ratzinger and Monsignor 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 favoring 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 Monsignor 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 March 10 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 following configuration:
(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 officials.
(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 toward 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” [that all may be one].

From Rome, at St. Peter’s, July 2, 2009, fifth year of Our Pontificate.

Pope Benedict XVI

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