One of the most obvious ways in which Tradition is returning is in the growth of the traditional priestly societies. Before I move onto the orthodox societies, I feel that I should mention the Pius the Tenth Society, set up by Archbishop Lefebvre, and now in talks with the Holy See about a return to the main body of the Church. I hope that these talks will be successful. I know that there are some extremist, sede vacantist, individuals in the Society, but a few years ago I was a guest at a family party and the other guest was a young priest of the Society. At the end of our chat, I was wishing that I could have him as my curate! It will be a huge benefit both to the Society and to the whole Church if these discussions can be concluded in peace and amity.
In 2001, a whole group of priests with their bishop, Bishop Rangel, was reconciled to Rome in Campos, Brazil; they are now spread throughout the diocese of Campos and working in cooperation with the 'ordinary' priests of that diocese. The bishop of this group of traditional priests, which is called the Personal Administration of St John Mary Vianney, is now Bishop Fernando Areas Rifan. Bishop Rifan visited England a couple of years ago, and celebrated Mass in various places, including the North-East: I was privileged to be the deacon at the Solemn High Mass in St Joseph's, Gateshead.
Last year, the Transalpine Redemptorists whose monastery is on Papa Stronsay, an island off the north coast of Scotland, were reconciled with Rome. Their liturgical celebrations are all still completely traditional.
The other two priestly societies of which I have some knowledge are The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest and The Priestly Fraternity of St Peter. This latter society, known colloquially as the FSSP, was set up in 1988, with Cardinal Ratzinger's help, by a number of priests who left the Pius Xth Society when it split with Rome. Both societies are firmly established and growing, and have priests resident in many countries, indeed, in some places administering their own traditional parishes. One particularly outstanding , and hopeful, feature of these societies is the number of vocations they are both attracting to the priesthood. In both of these societies, on some occasions, they have had to refuse to accept young men for training, because the buildings they possess could not house the number of students who had applied!
Now the FSSP have completed the building of a new chapel at their seminary in Denton, Nebraska, USA; the seminary is dedicated to Our Lady of Guadelupe, and the new chapel will be named for Saints Peter and Paul. The consecration of the chapel will take place on March 3rd at 10 am. The bishop leading the Consecration will be His Excellency Bishop Bruskewitz, Bishop of the Diocese of Lincoln. Also on the sanctuary and attending the ceremony will be His Eminence, William Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (Pope Benedict's old job) and President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. The ceremony will be five hours long. According to an American correspondent: "Upon entering through its mahogany doors the visitor will be immersed in the chapel's beauty and grandeur which include an elevated main altar, emphasised by a 31-foot marble canopy or 'baldocchino', the chapel's seven side altars and liturgical choir stalls which seat 92 seminarians and priest." The ceremony and Solemn High Mass will be televised live on EWTN.
When the FSSP began in 1988, it had twelve priests. Now the Society has 213 priests and 137 seminarians. Besides the Seminary in Nebraska, the headquarters of the Society are at Witgratsbad, Bavaria. Their website iswww.fssp.org.
Incidentally, Bishop Bruskewitz is a traditionally minded priest, and this is known throughout the diocese and appreciated by priests and people. As a consequence his diocesan seminary has lots of priestly vocations, whilst neighbouring dioceses have very few. What a pity that more bishops (who shall remain nameless!) cannot notice this sort of cause and effect!