RELIGION

Pope to lift excommunication of breakaway bishops

Pope Benedict XVI has cancelled the excommunication of four bishops ordained by the late French bishop Marcel Lefebvre. A controversial figure, Lefebvre supported Latin mass and defied the ecumenical approach favoured by John Paul II.

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AFP - Pope Benedict XVI has decided to cancel the excommunication of four bishops ordained in 1998 by the controversial French bishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Italian daily Il Giornale reported Thursday.

The pope has already signed the decree lifting the excommunication, which would be made public later in the week, said the paper's Vatican specialist Andrea Tornielli, who is considered well-informed on such matters.

Lefebvre, who died in 1991, was excommunicated in 1988 by the then pope Jean Paul II for having ordained the bishops in defiance of the Vatican's authority.

Lefebvre led a schism from the Church over the more ecumenical approach reflected in the Vatican II reforms (1962-65) and in particular the abandonment of the traditional Latin mass.

In June last year, his successor Bishop Bernard Fellay rejected overtures from the Vatican for a reconciliation a year after the pope approved the greater use of the old Latin mass, signalling a bid to heal the split.

The breakaway Priestly Society of Saint Pius X claims 150,000 followers across the world, mainly in France and Brazil.

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