The Pope spoke today at the general audience of the decree made public Saturday, which lifted the excommunication of four prelates of the Society of St. Pius X, illicitly ordained to the episcopate by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988.
The move has been criticized as an affront to Jewish-Catholic relations because one of the four, Bishop Richard Williamson, told an interviewer that he didn't believe 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust. Another of the cleared bishops, the superior-general of the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay, has since silenced the prelate.
But, the Holy Father made clear today that the lifting of the excommunication is about one thing only: Church unity.
"In the homily delivered on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of my pontificate, I said that the 'call to unity' is an 'explicit' duty of the pastor," he said.
The Pontiff recalled how he reflected in that first of his papal homilies on the story of the miraculous catch of fish, and how Christians could now say: "Alas, beloved Lord, with sorrow we must now acknowledge that it [the net] has been torn."
But, he continued quoting from his homily, "We must not be sad! Let us rejoice because of your promise, which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path towards the unity you have promised. … Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!"