News Headlines > Francis grants SSPX right to celebrate marriage in sign of reconciliation

04 April 2017 | by Christopher Lamb

Francis grants SSPX right to celebrate marriage in sign of reconciliation

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New statement from Vatican says group is in a 'canonical irregular' situation only 'for the time being'

Pope Francis has granted permission for priests of the traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X to celebrate valid marriages, in another sign that the quasi-schismatic group are on the verge of being reconciled back into the Church. 

In a ruling approved by Francis, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has said that SSPX clergy can celebrate wedding liturgies providing they are assisted by a priest from the local diocese who would act as a witness to the vows. However, if there are no diocesan priests available the CDF states that a priest of the society can conduct the ceremony on his own. 

The latest move, authored by Cardinal Gerhard Muller and by Arcbishop Guido Pozzo, who is in charge of the Vatican body tasked with reconciling the group back into the Church, states it is part of the process of “institutional regularisation” of the SSPX. Significantly, the statement says the group is in a “canonical irregular” situation” only “for the time being.”  

Known as the Lefebvrists after their founder - a French missionary Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre -the society broke away from the Church in protest at the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. This split occurred definitively when Archbishop Lefebvre ordained four bishops for the society without Holy See approval. 

Today the group, which celebrate the sacraments solely according to the old rite, remain in a sort of canonical limbo: although excommunicated Archbishop Lefebvre’s ordinations of his bishops were valid because he himself was a legitimate bishop. 

All Masses celebrated by the society are “valid but illicit” while confessions and weddings were “invalid” because the priests lacked the necessary authority to do so. 

Francis has earlier made it possible for SSPX priests to now validly hear confessions, and the latest ruling now includes marriages. 

Both Benedict XVI and this Pope have sought to regularise the SSPX, with Benedict lifting excommunications on the bishops ordained by Lefebvre. 

Francis has also helped the society buy a large building complex in Rome which could act as a new headquarters with their head office currently in Écône, Switzerland. 

Church sources say that Francis could offer the SSPX a “personal prelature” which would effectively mean they report directly to the Pope: the other group with this set-up is Opus Dei. 

While attempts to bring back the society have been unsuccessful in the past, reports say a deal is on the verge of being struck. Two dates are being considered for an announcement: the first is 13 May, the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, and the second is on 7 July, the tenth anniversary of Benedict XVI’s easing of restrictions of celebration Mass in the old rite. 

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