Roman Catholic Church Schism Ends

Associated Press/January 19, 2002

Sao Paulo, Brazil -- The Roman Catholic Church on Friday ended a schism that had divided it for some three decades, as followers of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre were welcomed back into the fold.

Vatican representative Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos declared the dispute officially over during an evening ceremony in Campos, 430 miles northeast of Sao Paulo.

Followers of the ultraconservative Lefebvre, known as "traditionalists,'' rejected the liberalizing reforms of the 1962-65 second Vatican Council. These reforms include allowing priests to face the congregation and to celebrate Mass in languages other than Latin. They also rejected the Vatican's reaching out to other faiths.

In 1975, Pope Paul VI officially suppressed Lefebvre's Society of St. Pius X order. The maverick bishop was excommunicated in 1988 after having ordained four bishops in defiance of Rome. He died in 1991.

The cardinal represented Pope John Paul II at the service in Campos' Sao Salvador Cathedral.

"We are carrying out Christ's mandate to love one another,'' he said of the ceremony to lift Lefebvre's excommunication and close the historic rift.

Several other high-ranking church leaders participated in the ceremony including Archbishop Alfio Rapisarda, the papal ambassador to Brazil, and Campos Bishop Roberto Guimaraes.

Nationwide, there are 28,000 traditionalists, according to Fides, the Vatican's news service.

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