Catholic sect defies the Vatican

Agence France-Presse/June 28, 2009

A breakaway Roman Catholic sect has thumbed its nose at Pope Benedict XVI by ordaining three priests in his home region of southern Germany in defiance of the Vatican.

A further eight priests and 10 deacons are to be inducted on Monday by the Society of St Pius X at its base in Econe, Switzerland in a ceremony already declared "illegitimate" by the Church.

The ordinations come five months after the Pope lifted the excommunication of four of the society's bishops, including Holocaust denier Richard Williamson, infuriating Jews and many Catholics.

The gesture was meant as the first step in a process of reconciliation with the fundamentalist group which has so far failed to bear fruit.

About 1200 people attended Saturday's ceremony at Zaitzkofen near the Bavarian city of Regensburg which saw a Swede, a Pole and a Swiss ordained priests.

Another priest in the sect, Stefan Frey, said the society finds itself in a "grey area" with regard to religious law, and deplored the fuss surrounding the ordinations.

The Vatican said last week it will maintain its position "as long as issues concerning doctrine are not clarified," adding that the Pius X group has "no canonical status in the Church."

The Pope said in March that while the bishops excommunicated by his predecessor John Paul II have been "invited" back into the fold, they "do not (yet) legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church."

Pope 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."

Traditionalist archbishop Marcel Lefebvre consecrated the bishops of his separatist group in 1988.

He had broken away from the Church in 1970 in protest against the reforms passed by the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s.

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