By Christopher Wells
The Holy See has published the text of an Apostolic Letter, issued motu proprio on 17 January 2019, by which Pope Francis suppresses the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.
Established by St John Paul II
The Commission was established by Pope St John Paul II on 2 July 1988, with the “task of collaborating with the bishops, with the Departments of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities or individuals until now linked in various ways to the Fraternity founded by Archbishop Lefebvre [the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, or FSSPX], who may wish to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church.”
Dialogue with FSSPX
In the Letter, Pope Francis notes the “sincere solicitude and praiseworthy care” with which the Commission undertook its work. He explained, however, that “the conditions that led the holy Pontiff John Paul II to the institution” of the Ecclesia Dei Commission have changed since its foundation. Notably, the dialogue with the FSSPX is now focused primarily on questions of a doctrinal nature. For this reason, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith requested, in November of 2017, that the dialogue with the priestly fraternity be conducted directly by the CDF.
The new motu proprio effects that change through the suppression of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.
Care for traditional communities and faithful
In addition to the dialogue with the FSSPX, the Pontifical Commission had also exercised the authority of the Holy See “over various institutes and religious communities which it has erected which have as their ‘proper Rite’ the ‘extraordinary form’ of the Roman Rite and observe the previous traditions of the religious life.” It was also tasked with looking after and promoting “the pastoral care of the faithful attached to the antecedent Latin liturgical tradition, present in various parts of the world.”
In the motu proprio suppressing the Ecclesia Dei Commission, Pope Francis notes that “the Institutes and Religious Communities which habitually celebrate in the extraordinary form have today found their own stability of number and life.”
New Section of CDF
With the Apostolic Letter, the Holy Father assigns the duties of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei in their entirety to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “within which a specific Section will be set up in order to continue the work of vigilance, promotion, and protection” of the suppressed Commission.
Finally, Pope Francis disposes that the budget of the Ecclesia Dei Commission fall within the ordinary accounting of the CDF.