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Vatican declares ordination of breakaway priests 'illegitimate'

The Vatican said on Wednesday that the ordination of priests belonging to the Lefebvrist schism, scheduled for the end of June, would be "illegitimate".


AFP -  The Vatican Wednesday declared "illegitimate" the ordination of priests planned for later this month by a hardline breakaway movement from the Roman Catholic Church.

"The ordinations are ... still to be considered illegitimate," the Vatican said in a communique, despite its controversial decision to lift the excommunication of four bishops from the Society of St Pius X including Holocaust denier Richard Williamson.

Members of the fraternity "do not exercise legitimate ministries in the (Roman Catholic) Church," the communique said.

The Vatican will maintain this position "as long as issues concerning doctrine are not clarified," it said, adding that the Switzerland-based group had "no canonical status in the Church."

The pope's decision in January to lift Williamson's excommunication infuriated the Jewish community and many Catholics.

Benedict's predecessor Pope John Paul II excommunicated Williamson and three other bishops after traditionalist leader Marcel Lefebvre ordained them as bishops of his separatist church in 1988.

Their fraternity rejected reforms passed by Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, notably including a declaration, Nostra Aetate, which ended a Church doctrine by which the Jews were held responsible for killing Jesus Christ.

Williamson, who claims that no Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers, has apologised to anyone offended by his remarks but has refused to retract his assertions, saying only that he would reexamine the historical evidence.

The pope said in March that while the bishops had been "invited" back into the fold, they "do not (yet) legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church."

Benedict said that the four must recognise "the authority of the pope and the Second Vatican Council" in order to "complete the last steps necessary to achieve full communion with the Church."

Lefebvre ordained the four, in defiance of John Paul II, as bishops to create a heirarchy for the breakway group.


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