Pope Francis has helped the Society of St Pius X in its efforts to buy a beautiful church and complex in the centre of Rome, according to the Italian newspaper Il Foglio.
Vatican commentator Matthew Matzuzzi said the Pope played a “decisive role” in speeding up the purchase of Santa Maria Immacolata all’Esquilino.
The church, round the corner from Rome’s Lateran basilica, is expected to become a study centre and later, it is hoped, the headquarters of the SSPX.
Matzuzzi said the Pope’s intervention was made through Mgr Guido Pozzo, secretary of the pontifical commission Ecclesia Dei, which seeks to bring traditionalists into full communion with the Church.
He said the SSPX superior general Bishop Bernard Fellay stayed at the Pope’s Santa Marta guesthouse along with two other officials, Fr Alain Nely and Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta, during negotiations last month.
The neo-Gothic church, located on the Esquiline, one of the seven hills of Rome, was built between 1896 and 1914 for a now disbanded order of Franciscans, the Grey Friars of Charity. The complex buildings next door were formerly used for a school.
It would not be the first time the society has been able to count on the assistance of Pope Francis.
The then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, intervened when the Argentine government sought to deny the society permanent residence in the country on the grounds that it was not Catholic.
Fr Christian Bouchacourt, the SSPX district superior, appealed to Cardinal Bergoglio, who reportedly told him: “You are Catholic, that is evident. I will help you.”
Matzuzzi also claimed that an agreement between the Holy See and the SSPX that would establish the society as a personal prelature was now close.