Society of St Pius X & Vatican II

Dialogika Resources

"The Unity of the Church is a Great Good"

Statement of Bishop Gebhard Fürst, Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart

[In a statement the bishop of the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Dr. Gebhard Fürst, comments on the current religious controversies.]

In recent days, the events surrounding the lifting of the excommunication of four bishops of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X have caused uncertainty, incomprehension and disappointment for many people inside and outside the Church. Particularly aggravating was the-certainly unintentional-coincidence of this act, which was intended by Pope Benedict XVI as a gesture of reconciliation, with the totally unacceptable statements by Bishop Richard Williamson that deny the crimes of the Nazis against millions of Jewish people and that call the Shoah into question. It burdens me as a bishop and as a pastor that these developments have led to the outward and internal alienation of numerous faithful from the church, to a loss of confidence especially by our Jewish sisters and brothers towards the church, and to a significant disturbance of the Christian-Jewish dialogue. In the eyes of many these events impair the credibility of the Catholic Church.

Theology and the pastoral care of our diocese, for which I as bishop am responsible, are and remain bound without any ifs and buts to the heritage of the Second Vatican Council and to its central concerns, which have also been implemented continuously by the post-conciliar Popes Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II.

The unity of the church is a great good, whose service is an outstanding task of the pope and the bishops. But this unity is not reconcilable with a denial of fundamental statements of the Council. Otherwise it will be bought at the price that many faithful will internally or outwardly turn away, for whom - with the Council - an honest contemporaneity of the Church unites with the people of today, with their "joys and their hopes, their griefs and their anxieties". The unity on the one side must not lead to alienation on the other side.

The lifting of the excommunication of the bishops of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X must cause all of us to realize the importance of the Second Vatican Council and to continue to develop and implement it even more intensely.

This applies to the understanding and the structure of the Church, to the opening of the church to social developments, to civilization and to the culture of the modern world in which human rights and human dignity are constitutive.

This applies to the freedom of religion and especially to a new appreciation of Judaism in its God-given importance for Christianity and to a deepening of the dialogue with Jews as our "older sisters and brothers".

This applies to the clear commitment to ecumenism and to the promotion of Christian unity.

This applies finally and not least to the liturgy of the Church which is a prominent concern the Second Vatican Council.

The genuine desire for unity must be based on mutuality. Whoever professes the church cannot question fundamental concerns of the Council. Otherwise there would only be an illusory unity.