Andrea Tornielli tells us that the Holy Father granted an audience to the embattled Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.
Oddly, we didn’t hear about this meeting before. It happened on 10 June. Usually the Pope’s meetings are listed in public sources, such as the Bolletino.
From Vatican Insider with my emphases:
The Pope speaks with the young Franciscans of the Immaculate
The meeting, which lasted an hour and a half, took place on Tuesday 10 June in the chapel of Santa Marta. On the Council, Francis endorsed the hermeneutic proposed by Benedict XVI
The meeting was held on Tuesday 10 June in the chapel of the Santa Marta Residence in the Vatican, despite the fact the Pope had been feeling under the weather and cancelled some appointments the previous day. For an hour and a half, Francis entertained around sixty Franciscans of the Immaculate, the order founded by father Stefano Manelli that last year the Holy See put under temporary receivership to resolve internal differences regarding the government, administration, relationship with the female branch and the use of the by new exclusive [sic] old missal and the interpretations of the last Council. Around forty seminarists, novitiates, and theology and philosophy students were present, along with their teachers and the pontifical commissioner, [aka Commisar] father Fidenzio Volpi.
The Franciscan Friars sang the Ave Maria di Fatima and renewed in the hands of the Pope their vows of total consecration to the Immaculate. Questions were then put to Francis on the most contested themes regarding the internal operations of the institution. Pope Bergoglio proved to be well informed on all issues, following the matter closely, and several times showed his appreciation for father Volpi, quelling rumours that the actions of the government of the commissioner and his collaborators were undertaken without the Pope’s knowledge. [So, the Pope knew what was going on.]
Following the assignment of commissioners and restrictions applied to the use of the old missal, which, as opposed to what happens under motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, in the case of the Franciscans of the Immaculate it can be used without prior authorisation from superiors, there were defections in the friars and the seminarists. Of 400 members in the world, around 40 have requested to be released from their vows, and around half of these are seminarists and therefor still students who had only made temporary vows.
[NB] On the motu proprio, [Summorum Pontificum] Pope Francis said he did not want to deviate from the line of Benedict XVI, and reiterated that the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate remained free to celebrate the old mass, even if for the moment, [?] in light of the controversies surrounding the exclusive right to use that missal – an element that did not constitute part of the founding charisma of the institution – they required “a discernment” with the superior and with the bishop if it concerned celebrations in parish churches, sanctuaries and teaching houses. [Excuse me, but… why?] The Pope explained that there must be freedom, both for those who wish to celebrate with the old rite, and those who wish to celebrate with the new rite, without the rite becoming an ideological banner. [And clearly it had. But, now that this trip to the woodshed (fairly or unfairly) has been prosecuted, why not just let them get on with life? Also, if Pope Francis is okay with the juridical changes made by Benedict, then why is the group getting hammered? Is this a way of testing them? Is this something that a former Jesuit provincial would do? Force the group to make choices and test them?]
One question concerned the interpretation of the II Vatican Council. Francis once again expressed his appreciation for the work of Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, defining it as “the best hermeneutic” of the Council. [DI YOU HEAR THAT, FISHWRAP? Remember what Pope Francis wrote to Marchetto? HERE] He then responded to the objection according to which the II Vatican would only be a castoral [sic… I don’t think “beaver-like” but rather “pastoral”] council, which has damaged the church. The Pope said that although it is has been pastoral, it contains doctrinal elements and is a Catholic council, reaffirming the line of the hermeneutics of reform in the continuity of the one-subject church, presented by Benedict XVI in his speech to the Roman Curia in December 2005. He then reminded them that all councils have provoked uproar and reactions, because the demon “does not want the church to become strong”. [“the demon… il demonio”, which is The Devil.] He also said that we must move forwards with a theological and not ideological hermeneutic of the II Vatican.
Francis also said that he had wanted the closure of the theological institute within the Franciscans of the Immaculate (STIM), so that the seminarists would study in the pontifical theology faculties of Rome. He then explained that the Church guarantees orthodoxy through the Pope. [His Holiness, if he thinks that, should pay closer attention to his old colleagues at the Gregorian.]
Meanwhile, the fact of this meeting makes me scratch my head a little. What I have been hearing is that some of the men want to leave the FFIs, maybe to form something else, perhaps under the aegis of the PCED. So, it could be that some people are getting nervous. Could it be that the powers that be have become aware of how many people are watching the situation of the FFIs? Could this be damage control? It’s pretty ugly, after all.
I pray for the peaceful resolution of the situation and the relief of the Friars from the super-invasive aegis of the Congregation.