VATICAN CITY - The Vatican will begin talks today to bring a group of breakaway traditionalist Catholics back under its wing, nine months after the pope created an uproar by rehabilitating one of their bishops despite his denial of the Holocaust.
A delegation from the Society of St. Pius X travels to the Vatican for a first round of meetings aimed at overcoming the deep theological differences that prompted the group to split from Rome following the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
No immediate breakthroughs are expected in what will likely be a lengthy negotiation.
“In the best case, humanly speaking, we have several years of discussions ahead of us,’’ the society’s delegation leader, Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta, said on the society’s website.
De Galarreta and three other bishops were excommunicated in 1988 after they were consecrated without papal consent by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Lefebvre founded the society in 1969, opposed to Vatican II’s reforms, which included outreach to Jews and other Christians and the celebration of Mass in the vernacular rather than Latin.
The society’s opposition to Vatican II, particularly its teachings on ecumenism and religious freedom, remains at the heart of the dispute with Rome and is the focus of the talks beginning today with officials from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Benedict laid the groundwork for the meeting starting in 2007, when he relaxed restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass, which the traditionalists had demanded. In January, he approved lifting the bishops’ 1988 excommunications.