The breakaway Society of St. Pius X has given its assent to a statement of doctrinal belief presented to it by the Vatican, but with some suggested amendments to the text.
It will now be for Pope Benedict XVI to decide whether the traditionalist group's response is sufficient to permit them back into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Weekend media speculation suggested that there has been behind-the-scene dialogue between both sides in recent weeks trying to smooth reconciliation.
“Unofficially and in the utmost discretion, the envoys have worked on both sides to reach agreement,” wrote Jean-Marie Guenois, religion correspondent for the French newspaper Le Figaro April 13.
“In recent weeks, the final adjustments have been finalized between Rome and Ecône (the Society’s Swiss headquarters) to best respond to requests for ‘clarifications’ sought by the Vatican, 16 March.”
A public announcement by the Vatican on the latest state of play with negotiations is likely to be made this week.
If agreement can be reached, the Society could be offered the status of Personal Prelature within the Church. That is a jurisdiction without geographical boundaries designed to carry out particular pastoral initiatives. At present, the only personal prelature in the Church is Opus Dei.
The Society of St. Pius X was presented with a “doctrinal preamble” by the Vatican in September 2011, which outlined points of belief that the Church needed clarified before finally healing the decades-long rift between the two sides.
An initial reply in January 2012 was deemed “not sufficient” by the Vatican who then invited the Society to further clarify its position by mid-April.
The Society has had a strained relationship with the Vatican since its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebrve, consecrated four bishops against the orders of Pope John Paul II in 1988.
Archbishop Lefebrve founded the Society in 1970 as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council.
In 2009, Pope Benedict remitted the excommunications of the Society’s bishops and set talks in motion aimed at restoring “full communion.” The Pope said at the time that to achieve full communion the members of the Society would have to show “true recognition of the Magisterium and the authority of the Pope and of the Second Vatican Council.”