Catholic rebel group begins criticizing new pope

Thu Apr 18, 2013 1:36pm EDT
 
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - A rebel Catholic group at the heart of major controversies that plagued former Pope Benedict has begun criticizing his successor Pope Francis for the popular approach he has taken since his election last month.

In a letter to supporters this week, the head of the ultra- traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) asked whether the new pontiff's focus on serving people could be only "man-centered philanthropy" rather than true religious leadership.

Bishop Bernard Fellay's sharp criticisms of the Vatican attracted attention during Benedict's papacy because the now retired head of the Roman Catholic Church wanted to reintegrate the once-excommunicated group fully into the Roman fold.

Francis, the former Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, has upset many Catholic traditionalists by eschewing Vatican pomp, presenting himself as a humble servant of the poor and showing little interest in returning to centuries-old traditions.

In his letter, Fellay urged Francis "not to allow souls to perish because they no longer learn sound doctrine", by which he meant the ultra-traditionalist views the SSPX advocates.

"What good is it to devote oneself to serving people if it hides from them what is essential?" asked Fellay, whose group claims 500 priests and a million followers around the world.

Aiding the poor has always been a concern for the Church, he said, "but if it becomes merely man-centered philanthropy, then the Church is no longer carrying out its mission".

Fellay, who had long hoped that Benedict would give in and reintegrate his group without conditions, had avoided public comment on his successor until now.   Continued...

 
Pope Francis waves as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican April 17, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile