The Pope said he hopes the bishops will respond to his decision by accepting his authority and the teachings of Vatican II.
The four bishops in question--Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso del Gallareta--were all excommunicated by Pope John Paul II in 1988 because Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre chose to ordain them without permission from the Pope.
These prelates compose the leadership of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).
Pope Benedict explained his motivation for lifting the excommunications, saying, "I have undertaken this act of paternal benevolence because those same bishops have repeatedly expressed to me their profound suffering at the situation in which they found themselves.”
As he explained his reasons for removing the excommunications of the four bishops today, the Pope called on them to take the next step towards full reconciliation.
"I hope that this gesture of mine will be followed by a prompt commitment on their part to take the further steps necessary to achieve full communion with the Church, thus showing true faithfulness to, and true recognition of, the Magisterium and authority of the Pope and of Vatican Council II," Pope Benedict said.
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