Those words Pope Luciani pronounced about Lefebvre
Reconciliation with traditionalist archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was also close to Pope Luciani’s heart. This was revealed to the director of the Italian Episcopal Conference’s television channel TV2000, Dino Boffo, by John Paul I’s secretary, Diego Lorenzi, during an interview on the occasion of the centenary of the “smiling Pope’s” birth. The interview will be aired tomorrow at 18:30 on TV2000. “The problem Lefebvre had – Lorenzi stated – which still exists today, was also on John Paul I’s mind.” Referring to the Lefebvre affair, the Pope’s secretary explained how John Paul I used to say to him: “The uncut tunic of the Roman Catholic Church has a tear in it.” “And he longed for it to be mended as soon as possible,” Lorenzi concluded. “The compactness of the flock, the unity of the Church is something he held very close to his heart, more than many other things which the press seemed interested in.”
Pope Luciani’s recent biography (San Paolo editions) written by Marco Roncalli, a number of excerpts of which were published in this afternoon’s issue of the Holy See’s daily broadsheet L’Osservatore Romano reconstructs the future Pope’s thinking and concerns about the Lefebvrians. These concerns arose before the election and were a response to a situation which he already saw as an emergency during the Venice period. Starting for example with the homily pronounced on 16 August 1976, when Patriarch Luciani began talking about the ancient discord within the Church and ended up discussing the modern disagreements which saw Paul VI hit by the Lefebvre and Franzoni cases. Just a few days before, on 22 July, Paul VI has in fact suspended the traditionalist bishop a divinis.
In his homily, Pope Luciani linked the two cases saying: “My brothers, I was a fraternal friend of Franzoni’s and we were on familiar terms; I have heard Lefebvre speak in the Council on many occasions. I am certain that years ago both of them fully accepted the Council’s following words: “by virtue of office and as vicar of Christ, has full, supreme and universal authority, which can be exercised always and everywhere.” How come both Franzoni and Lefebvre now expressly reject these words? To me this is an unexplainable tragedy… Or perhaps “the explanation lies in the conclusion itself, which Paul Bourget gave in his novel Le demon du midi: “We must live according to what we think, otherwise we end up thinking according to how we live”… We may also face this risk…The Lord, however, wants us to obey the hierarchy.” These words are as true today as they were yesterday.