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Ecclesia Dei commission merged into Vatican doctrinal congregation

July 08, 2009

With the publication of a new motu proprio entitled Ecclesiae Unitatem, Pope Benedict XVI has folded the Ecclesia Dei commission into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, making Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of that Congregation, the new head of the Ecclesia Dei commission.

The Ecclesia Dei commission, the Pope notes in this motu proprio, was set up by Pope John Paul II to supervise efforts to achieve reconciliation with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). By allowing broader use of the traditional Latin liturgy (with his earlier motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum), and by lifting the excommunication of the SSPX bishops, Pope Benedict has advanced that cause of reconciliation.

"However," the Pope notes in Ecclesiae Unitatem, "it is clear that the doctrinal questions remain, and until they are clarified the Society [SSPX] has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church." To facilitate the discussion of those doctrinal issues, therefore, he has make the Ecclesia Dei commission a part of the Vatican's doctrinal office.

The Pope's move, which had been anticipated for weeks, was interpreted by some reporters (most notably a Reuters correspondent) as a rebuke to the officials of the Ecclesia Dei commission, who had come under heavy criticism when the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops, apparently without having been alerted to the fact that one of those bishops had made public statements questioning the severity of the Holocaust.

Although it is true that the top officials of the Ecclesia Dei commission have been replaced, the president of the commission, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, had marked his 80th birthday on July 4 and was long overdue for retirement. More significant is the fact that the commission's longtime secretary, Msgr. Camille Perl, is replaced by Msgr. Guido Pozzo, a current staff member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.


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