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Pope Francis meets SSPX leader in Vatican

Pope Francis (CNS)

Pope Francis has met with the head of a breakaway group of traditionalist Catholics amid new hopes for progress toward ending a quarter-century schism.

The Society of St Pius X said on Monday that the 40-minute meeting was cordial, and took place because Francis wanted a “private and informal meeting” with its superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay.

In a short statement the Vatican press office said that the meeting was held on Saturday.

“The press office confirms that on Saturday, April 2, a meeting took place in the Vatican between Pope Francis and Bishop Bernard, Fellay, Superior General of the St Pius X Fraternity,” the statement said.

In 2014 the Vatican resumed dialogue with the society after doctrinal talks on bringing it back under Rome’s wing collapsed.

Last year, Francis allowed priests of the society, which has no legal status in the Church, to hear confessions during his Holy Year of Mercy. The Pope expressed his hopes that “in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the fraternity.”

“In the meantime,” the Pope wrote, “motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish that those who, during the Holy Year of Mercy, approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.”

The late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre founded the society, opposed to the Second Vatican Council’s introduction of Mass in the vernacular and outreach to Jews.