Archbishop Marcel François Lefebvre

Archbishop Marcel François Lefebvre

Birth
Tourcoing, Departement du Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France
Death 25 Mar 1991 (aged 85)
Martigny-Ville, Bezirk Martigny, Valais, Switzerland
Burial Econe, Bezirk Martigny, Valais, Switzerland
Plot Crypt of The International Seminary.
Memorial ID 20870303 · View Source
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Roman Catholic Archbishop. A native of Tourcoing, Marcel François Marie Joseph Lefebvre was the third child born to a factory owner who, being involved in the French Resistance and British Intelligence during the Second World War, was imprisoned by the Gestapo and deported to the concentration camp of Sonnenburg where he died in 1944. Ordained priest on September 21, 1929 by Msgr. Achille Liénart for the diocese of Lille, he was sent to Rome for further studies, earning a doctorate in theology in July of the following year. A month later, Liénart appointed him assistant curate in a parish in Lomme. Around this period Lefebvre had already asked to be released for missionary duties and join the Holy Ghost Fathers but Liénart insisted that he would consider this move for a year engaging him thus in parish work. Leading on with his decision, Lefebvre entered the novitiate of the Holy Ghost Fathers at Orly in September 1931 taking his simple vows a year later. Sent to Gabon as professor at St. John's Seminary in Libreville, of which he was appointed rector in 1934, he took his solemn vows on September 28, 1935. Superior of a number of missions of the Holy Ghost Fathers, in October 1945 he was ordered by his superior general to return to France and assume duties as rector of the Congregation's seminary in Mortain. Shortly thereafter, he found himself back in Africa after Pope Pius XII appointed him apostolic vicar of Dakar on June 12, 1947. He received his episcopal consecration with the titular see of Anthedon on September 18 that year in his native Tourcoing from Cardinal Liénart. The following year, the named Pontiff appointed him apostolic delegate to French Africa. When on September 14, 1955, the apostolic vicariate of Dakar was raised to an archdiocese, Lefebvre became the first archbishop of the newly elevated metropolitan see of Dakar. Transferred to the diocese of Tulle in France by Pope John XXIII on January 23, 1962, retaining the personal title of archbishop, in July that year the chapter general of the Holy Ghost Fathers elected him as their superior general, resigning the pastoral government of Tulle a few days later. Receiving the titular archbishopric see Synnada in Phrygia, Lefebvre was a prelate of staunch traditionalist views who fiercely opposed the liturgical reforms introduced by the Second Vatican Council, describing as: "Lutheran, the new mass; masonic, the inter-religious dialogue; filo-communist, the ecumenism; and modernist, the Holy Father". Approached by a number of traditionalists from the French Seminary in Rome who had been refused tonsure, the rite by which until 1973 a seminarian became a cleric, they asked him to find for them a conservative seminary to complete their studies. Directing them to the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, he was urged to teach these seminarians personally. In 1969, he received permission from the local ordinary to establish a seminary in Fribourg, known as the International Priestly Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), which opened with nine students, later moving to Ecône in 1971. In the consistory of May 24, 1976, Pope Paul VI criticized Archbishop Lefebvre by name and appealed to him and his followers to change their minds. The Pope received him in audience on September 11, 1976 and one month later sent him a letter through which he reprimanded him, repeating the appeal he had made at the audience. Pope John Paul II also received Lefebvre in audience sixty days after his 1978 election but again no agreement was reached. In a 1987 sermon, the Archbishop announced his intention to consecrate a bishop to carry on his work after his death, a controversial move knowing that under canon law, the consecration of a bishop requires Papal approval. On June 30 that year, along with Msgr. Antônio de Castro Mayer of Campos, Brazil, he consecrated four SSPX priests as bishops: Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, Alfonso de Galarreta and Bernard Fellay. The following day, the Congregation for Bishops issued a decree stating that this was a schismatic act and that all six people directly involved had thereby incurred automatic excommunication. Archbishop Lefebvre succumbed to complications from the emergency surgery he underwent a week ago for a cancerous growth in his abdomen. Eight days later he was buried in the crypt at the society's international seminary in Ecône. The case of Lefebvre's excommunication leads on to this day. Several high ranking churchmen worked with the hope of seeing the SSPX in communion with Rome, with Pope Benedict XVI ultimately remitting the excommunication 'latae sententiae' imposed on the four bishops consecrated by Lefebvre on January 21, 2009, although they were not allowed to legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church. The excommunication was not however lifted from Lefebvre. The canonical situation of the society itself remains at present unresolved.

Bio by: Eman Bonnici


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  • Created by: Eman Bonnici
  • Added: 9 Aug 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 20870303
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Archbishop Marcel François Lefebvre (29 Nov 1905–25 Mar 1991), Find A Grave Memorial no. 20870303, citing International Seminary of Saint Pius X, Econe, Bezirk Martigny, Valais, Switzerland ; Maintained by Eman Bonnici (contributor 46572312) .