During a press conference which took place at a hotel near the Vatican, Bishop Bernard Fellay, leader of the traditionalist movement, “Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X”, started by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, attacked the ecumenical efforts of the Church and said dialogue with the Holy See was “at a stand still”.
Fellay, Superior General of the Fraternity, issued a letter addressed to select Cardinals in the Roman Curia and signed by him and the three other bishops who were excommunicated after being ordained by Lefebvre without Papal approval, which left the Fraternity in schism with the Catholic Church.
The letter was accompanied by a 50-page document called, “From Ecumenism to Silent Apostasy, 25 Years of a Pontificate,” in which Fellay expressed his evaluation of John Paul II’s papacy.
Fellay said the letter was sent to select Cardinals and not to the Pope—who that same afternoon at the Vatican presided at a ceremony honoring consecrated life—“because of the seriousness of the Holy Father’s state of health.”
Known for his rejection of Vatican II, especially liturgical changes and ecumenism, Fellay accused the Catholic Church of being not “a ship in a storm, but a ship with a whole in its side,” and he said ecumenism “has turned the Holy See, which is the Church, into a city of ruins,” because, he said, “the Church is more interested in Christian unity than in salvation.”
Fellay accused the Holy See of being “too soft” on dissent, and at the same time treating “in a tyrannical way” those who want to “return to traditional values,” that is, to those of the Lefebvrists.
Finally, Fellay told reporters that negotiations with the Vatican for reconciliation are “at a stand still,” despite the efforts of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Ecclesia Dei Pontifical Commission, created by the Pope to foster the reconciliation of the Lefebvrists with the Church.
Cardinal Castrillón has reached out to the group through various gestures, but as result of the constant attacks on the Pope, he issued a letter on April 5, 2002, saying attacks on the Holy Father could not be justified under the mantle of “defense of tradition.”
“They constitute, in fact, a dangerous pretense to judge the Supreme Authority as well,” said the Cardinal, citing Vatican I, a council which the Lefebvrists accept as legitimate, which proclaimed that “nobody can bestow upon himself the right to judge the Holy See.”
At the end of the press conference, on a more conciliatory note, Fellay said, “We are not rejecting an agreement. But before we build a bridge, it is better we build a solid foundation, since Rome doesn’t not see the same problems the way we see them.”