Catholic traditionalists move to reconcile with Vatican

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican on Wednesday said there had been "a step forward" towards the re-integration into the Catholic Church of a traditionalist group of clergy that broke away from Rome in the 1980s.

Spokesman Federico Lombardi said it had received a response from the Society of Saint Pius X on its proposal for a reconciliation.

"The reply we received yesterday is different from the previous ones. It is a step forward, an encouraging development," he said.

The Vatican will now have to determine whether the fraternity, which was founded in 1970 and separated from the Vatican in 1988, can return to the fold.

Lombardi said he expected the response to come "within weeks."

The group has been strongly opposed to liberal reforms in the Catholic Church imposed by the Vatican II Council in the 1960s and has been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism and far-right political allegiances.

Pope Benedict XVI came under heavy criticism in 2009 when he lifted an excommunication order against a Saint Pius X Society bishop, Richard Williamson, who has denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers.

The Society was founded by French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and is based in Switzerland. It has its strongest presence in France and Germany.

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