Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney

Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney

The coat of arms of the Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney
Formation January 18, 2002 (2002-01-18)
Type Personal Apostolic Administration
Headquarters Principal Church of the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima
  • Av. Visconde de Alvarenga, 354/386 Parque Julião Nogueira - 28050-420, Campos, Brazil
Apostolic Administrator
Most Rev. Fernando Arêas Rifan
Key people
Most Rev. Antônio de Castro Mayer (founder)
Most Rev. Licínio Rangel (first leader after reconciliation with Rome)
Bishop Rifan meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter's Square, Vatican City, 2005.

The Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney (Latin: Administratio Apostolica Personalis Sancti Ioannis Mariae Vianney) was established on 18 January 2002 by Pope John Paul II for traditionalist Catholic clergy and laity within the Diocese of Campos in Brazil. It is the only Personal Apostolic Administration in existence, and the only Catholic Church jurisdiction devoted exclusively to celebrating the pre-1970 form of the Roman Rite. Its current Apostolic Administrator is Bishop Fernando Arêas Rifan.


From 3 January 1949 to 29 August 1981, the Diocese of Campos was headed by Bishop Antônio de Castro Mayer, who opposed the use there of Pope Paul VI's revision of the Roman Missal and held to the Tridentine Mass. After his resignation, the then 77-year-old Bishop Castro Mayer continued to lead opposition in the diocese to the revised liturgy and on 30 June 1988 joined with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in consecrating as bishops, against an express prohibition by Pope John Paul II, four priests of the Society of St. Pius X. For this action he was declared to have incurred excommunication.

The priests of Campos who shared his traditionalist Catholic views formed themselves into the Priestly Union of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, also known as the Sacerdotal Society of St. John Marie Vianney (SSJV) and, when Bishop de Castro Mayer died in April 1991, chose as his successor Licínio Rangel, who was given episcopal consecration later that year by three bishops of the Society of St. Pius X.

Reconciliation with the Holy See

Together with the Society of St. Pius X, the Campos group of priests made a pilgrimage to Rome during the Jubilee Year 2000 and was welcomed by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, with a lunch and dialogue.[1] They decided to seek reconciliation with the Holy See and, on 15 August 2001, wrote a letter to Pope John Paul II in which the..." whole Union renewed the profession of Catholic faith, declaring full communion with the Chair of Peter, recognising 'his Primacy and the government of the universal Church, her pastors and her faithful', and likewise declaring: 'For no reason do we wish to be separated from the Rock (Peter) on which Jesus Christ founded his Church". [2]

On Christmas Day (25 December), 2001, Pope John Paul II responded with an autograph letter telling the priests that, "warmly consenting to your request to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church, we canonically recognise that you belong to her." The Pope also removed the excommunication of Bishop Rangel for his illicit episcopal ordination.[2]

When the necessary legislation had been drawn up, the Pope then established for the Campos group, with effect from 18 January 2002, the Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney, with authority over those Catholics in the Diocese of Campos who wished to use the Roman Rite in the form it had before the revisions following the Second Vatican Council.

On the date of entry into effect of the new arrangement, a ceremony was held in Campos, to "sign the letter of entrance into full ecclesial communion of the priests of Campos from the Priestly Union of Saint John Mary Vianney and of the Catholic faithful they minister to, being then thus considered perfectly inserted in the Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church."[3]

Subsequent history

Coat of Mayer, carved in a wooden door in the Church of "Our Lady of Aparecida and St. Fidelis", belonging to the Apostolic Administration.

During the 1980s and 1990s, some claimed that followers of the Priestly Union of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney constituted the majority of the Catholics of Campos, who had never known the revised Liturgy of the Mass, as their diocesan bishop Antônio de Castro Mayer had, during the 1970s, retained the Tridentine Mass in his territory. However, when at the end of 2003 separate statistics were, for the first time, gathered for the Diocese of Campos and the new personal apostolic administration, the latter reported 28,325 Catholics, 28 priests, 9 seminarians, 75 religious sisters and 24 schools, while the diocese reported 854,000 Catholics, 48 diocesan and 17 religious priests, 30 seminarians, 19 religious brothers and 67 religious sisters, and 5 schools (Annuario Pontificio 2005). The corresponding figures seven years later were, for the personal apostolic administration, 30,733 Catholics, 32 priests, 7 seminarians, 38 religious sisters and 24 schools, and for the diocese 940,000 Catholics, 69 diocesan and 16 religious priests, 27 seminarians, 18 religious brothers and 81 religious sisters and 18 schools.[4]

In his letter of 25 December 2001, Pope John Paul II promised to ensure the episcopal succession of Bishop Licínio Rangel, and when Bishop Rangel asked that he be given an auxiliary bishop, recommended him to ask instead for a coadjutor, who would have the automatic right of succession. The Pope then, on 28 June 2002, appointed to that post Bishop Rangel's vicar general, Fernando Arêas Rifan, who automatically succeeded Bishop Rangel as Apostolic Administrator, when the latter died on 16 December 2002.

Main church at Campos, 2012

A group of traditionalist Catholics was thus accommodated fully within the Catholic Church. They accept the authority of the Pope as Vicar of Christ and Shepherd of the Church, the legitimacy of the Second Vatican Council and the validity of the Mass approved by Pope Paul VI. The clergy of the apostolic administration possess the faculty to celebrate in Latin the Mass, the sacraments and all other sacramental rites in the form codified by Saint Pius V and modified by his successors down to Saint John XXIII.

Doctrinal stance

In his first pastoral letter to the clergy, religious, associations and other faithful of the Apostolic Administration,[5] Bishop Rifan stressed the importance of the papal mandate or canonical mission given to him, quoting the Council of Trent's anathema against any who would say that one who lacks it is a lawful preacher of the word of God and minister of the sacraments.

He also warned those to whom he addressed his pastoral letter against two errors. One is heresy, attacks against the traditional Faith. He saw as a defence against that the traditional Latin liturgy and liturgical discipline that the Apostolic Administration keeps. The other error is schism, attacks against the unity of governance of the Church. Members of the Apostolic Administration must be on their guard against this too, he said, especially since their rightful efforts to preserve the Catholic faith had some unfortunate effects, in particular the onset of "a certain schismatic spirit that showed itself in a general taste for systematic criticism of Church authorities, a spirit of resistance, disobedience, disrespect, suspicion, backbiting, independence from the Church's Hierarchy and Magisterium, contentment with the abnormality of the situation, uncharitableness, a feeling of owning the whole of truth, a sectarian attitude that made us out to be the only good people ... with the underlying notion that 'the gates of Hell' had prevailed against the Church - something that, through the infallible help of our Saviour, is impossible."

Throne Episcopal Church's current Principal of Campos. The Apostolic Administrator is simultaneously Bishop, so he can use all of the episcopal insignias.

The document in Portuguese Answers to 48 questions on our recognition by the Holy See explains in details the reasons for the priests' decision to seek reconciliation with the Holy See and for their disagreement with the attitude, in this matter, of the Society of St Pius X.

In a 2005 interview, Cardinal Castrillón stated that there were cordial relations between the Personal Apostolic Administration and the Diocese of Campos at all levels, and that priests of the Apostolic Administration were celebrating Mass in the older form for the traditionalist faithful in another dozen dioceses in Brazil in accordance with signed agreements that they had with the diocesan bishops.[6]

Personal Apostolic Administrators of Saint John Vianney


  1. Traditionalist Schism in Brazil Ends
  2. 1 2 Quotation from Letter
  3. SSPX: Regarding the "reconciliation" in Campos
  4. Annuario Pontificio 2012
  5. original text (in Portuguese)
  6. Rapprochement by unhasty stages, but not too slow either
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