Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ecclesiae Unitatem

Following the public release yesterday of Caritatis in Veritate, today Pope Benedict XVI issued an Apostolic Letter, dated 2 July, motu proprio, entitled Ecclesiae Unitatem.

This letter concerns the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. This commission was established in the motu proprio promulgated by Pope John Paul II after the late "Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre illicitly conferred episcopal ordination upon four priests." The valid but illicit episcopal ordination took place on 30 June 1988. Established on 2 July 1988, the commission was to look into once again allowing the use of the 1962 Missale Romanum, which was suppressed by Pope Paul VI once the missal was promulgated after the Second Vatican Council. Eventually, Pope John Paul II allowed the celebration of the 1962 Missale Romanum, but only with the approval of the local bishop. Two years ago, on 7 July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI promulgated motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, allowing for the celebration of Mass according to the 1962 missal as an extraordinary form at the discretion of priests, who no longer require the permission of their bishops.

In time, after the formal excommunications of those four and Lefebvre, this independent commission oversaw all formal contact between the church and the Society of St. Pius X. Because with the promulgation of Summorum, the liturgical issues are no longer a barrier to reunion, the issues are now doctrinal. So, Ecclesiae Unitatem places Ecclesia Dei under the Congregration for the Doctrine of the Faith. In number 6 of today's letter, the Holy Father stipulates that:

"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."

So, William Cardinal Levada, who will be in Salt Lake City next month for the celebration of the centennial of The Cathedral of the Madeleine, becomes the president of Ecclesia Dei, with Msgr. Guido Pozzo, who currently serves as adjunct secretary of the International Theological Commission, another commission under the auspices of CDF, as secretary of the commission.

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