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Jul 31 13 12:04 PM
The Vatican congregation in charge of religious life has issued a decree appointing a commissioner with the approval of Pope Francis to resolve the internal divisions plaguing the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFI), but touched off a firestorm of controversy by restricting the order’s celebration of the Mass in the extraordinary form. However, FFI leaders dispute allegations that Pope Francis is rolling back Pope Benedict’s liturgical reforms, and say the decree is a necessary, temporary measure. “More than 80% of the friars appreciate the intervention of the Church,” Father Alfonso Bruno, a spokesman for the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, told CNA. Father Bruno explained the FFI’s problem “is not the Holy Mass usus antiquior [the Mass celebrated according to the 1962 Roman Missal].” He said celebrating the extraordinary form of the Mass in the community represented “only the tip of the iceberg.” The real concern, Father Bruno said, is over a “small group in power” within the religious congregation, which is under the influence of Mother Francesca Perillo, who oversees the FFI sisters who live in hermitages. Mother Francesca, he alleged, has “very close” ties with groups that take the positions of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), who taught both the Second Vatican Council and the Roman Rite promulgated by Pope Paul VI contain grave theological errors. Father Bruno said the FFI is concerned that Mother Francesca and her followers could fall into “heresy and disobedience.” Mother Perillo could not be reached to respond to the allegations before publication time. The Society of St. Pius X holds no canonical status in the Church. Renewed dialogue between SSPX and the Vatican appeared to hit another impasse in June with the society’’s declaration that their founder’’s reasons for his illicit consecrations of four bishops — which incurred automatic excommunication — still “retain their full justification.” The excommunications were lifted by Benedict XVI in 2009 in a conciliatory effort to facilitate the SSPX’’s full integration within the life of the Church. Contradicting Benedict XVI? The news of the July 11 decree regarding the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, from the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, was first reported by the veteran Vatican journalist, Sandro Magister, who described the congregation’’s move as “astonishing” and the first time that Pope Francis has contradicted his predecessor Benedict XVI. The declaration’s final paragraph reads: “In addition to the above, the Holy Father Francis has directed that every religious of the congregation of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate is required to celebrate the liturgy according to the ordinary rite and that, if the occasion should arise, the use of the extraordinary form (Vetus Ordo) must be explicitly authorized by the competent authorities, for every religious and/or community that makes the request.” The decree was signed by the Vatican congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Joao Braz de Viz, and its secretary, Archbishop José Rodrìguez Carballo. The decree goes into effect Aug. 12 and names Capuchin Father Fidenzio Volpi as the FFI commissioner, who will have to submit a written report every six months to the Vatican department. “The astonishment stems from the fact that what is decreed contradicts the dispositions given by Benedict XVI, which for the celebration of the Mass in the ancient rite sine populo [without the people] demand no previous request for authorization whatsoever,” Magister said. ‘Sensationalizing’ However, Father Angelo Geiger, the general delegate of the FFI in the United States, rejected Magister’s allegations, saying the Italian journalist was “sensationalizing something he can only speculate about.” “The restrictions on our community are specific to us, and have been put in place for reasons specific to us,” Father Geiger stated through his Mary Victrix blog. He also disputed Magister’s allegation that Pope Francis had contradicted his predecessor. “Pope Francis has not contradicted Pope Benedict,” he said. “The visitation of our community began under Pope Benedict and the commission was recommended by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, who was appointed to the congregation by Pope Benedict.”“What is being reported in the press, and what has actually transpired within our community over the course of a number of years are two different things,” he said. Still, news of the decree has sparked a strong debate in the blogosphere among traditionalist Catholics about the decision's implications. The blog Rorate Caeli said in a four-point response that the decree is “a clear indication that [the Traditional Latin Mass] is seen as something problematic, something that must be excised from the life of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.” The blog disputed the charge that “FFI’s application of Summorum Pontificum had caused discord in many communities and that the Traditional Latin Mass was ‘imposed’ brutally on priests who did not want it.” Instead, the blog stated that it had been “closely observing the FFI since 2008 [and] can affirm that the opposite is the case: Summorum was applied in a very gradual manner.“....
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