On Wednesday the general chapter of the Society of Saint Pius X, a canonically irregular priestly society, elected Fr. Davide Pagliarani as its superior general.
The July 11 election was made at the Seminary of St. Pius X in Ecône, about 10 miles southwest of Sion, Switzerland. The general chapter is being held through July 21.
Elected as general assistants were Bishop Alfonso Gallareta and Fr. Christian Bouchacourt.
The SSPX was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 to form priests, as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Church after the Second Vatican Council.
Its relations with the Holy See became particularly strained in 1988 when Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer consecrated four bishops without the permission of St. John Paul II.
Fr. Pagliarani, 47, succeeds Bishop Bernard Fellay as superior general of the SSPX. He has a mandate of 12 years in his office as superior general.
He was ordained a priest in 1996, and served at chapels in Italy and Singapore before he was appointed superior of the Italian district of the SSPX. He has been rector of Our Lady Co-Redemptrix Seminary in Argentina since 2012.
After accepting his office, Fr. Pagliarani made a profession of faith and took the Anti-Modernist Oath.
The illicit episcopal consecrations made in 1988 resulted in the excommunication of the bishops involved. The excommunications of the surviving bishops were lifted in 2009 by Benedict XVI, and since then negotiations “to rediscover full communion with the Church” have continued between the SSPX and the Vatican.
When he remitted the excommunications, Benedict noted that “doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry.”
The biggest obstacles for the SSPX's reconciliation have been the statements on religious liberty in Vatican II's declaration Dignitatis humanae as well as the declaration Nostra aetate, which it claims contradict previous Catholic teaching.
There were indications in recent years of movement towards regularization of the priestly society, which has some 590 priest-members.
In March 2017, Pope Francis gave diocesan bishops or other local ordinaries the authorization to grant priests of the SSPX the ability to celebrate licitly and validly the marriages of the faithful who follow the Society's pastoral activity.
Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary for the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, spoke about interactions with the SSPX in an April 2016 interview with La Croix. The archbishop, whose commission is responsible for discussions with the SSPX, said that discussions over the last few years have led to “an important clarification” that the Second Vatican Council “can be adequately understood only in the context of the full Tradition of the Church and her constant Magisterium.”
And in September 2015, the Pope announced that the faithful would be able to validly and licitly receive absolution from priests of the SSPX during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This ability was later extended indefinitely by Francis in his apostolic letter Misericordia et misera, published Nov. 20, 2016.