Talks were seemingly at a standstill until Bp. Fellay made the comments January 29 on the talk show TV Libertés. The last major interview given to reporters was in the summer, when Bp. Fellay said, "The Society of Saint Pius X ... does not seek primarily a canonical recognition."
The SSPX questions certains aspects of Vatican Council II and has no official canonical status in the Church. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters in May 2016 that the SSPX "must recognize the Pope and the Vatican Council II."
Bishop Fellay, however, said Rome is "easing up" and added, "Rome has been telling us that there are questions, or we can even say statements, put forward by the Council that are not required criteria for being Catholic."
In an apparent change of tone, Bp. Fellay told TV Libertés the SSPX does not have to wait until the situation in the Church has become "totally satisfactory" before accepting Rome's offer of a personal prelature, and added that there are already normal relations with the Vatican, and the agreements only lack the stamp of approval.
According to the Italian Newspaper La Stampa, Abp. Guido Pozzo, in charge of reaching out to the SSPX, said the group will have a personal prelature (similar to Opus Dei), which would place them not under a local bishop of a diocese but rather directly under the Holy See, with worldwide jurisdiction wherever SSPX clergy are.
It is unclear if this is another moment when the SSPX seems to be close to full communion, but ultimately an agreement will not be reached, as has already happened multiple times. Bishop Fellay commented:
A certain number of conditions are necessary, and for us the essential condition is our survival. So I have told Rome, very clearly, that, just as Abp. [Marcel] Lefebvre used to say in his day, we have a sine qua non condition: If this condition is not met, then we will not move. And this condition is for us to be able to remain as we are, to keep all the principles that have kept us alive, that have kept us Catholic
In November 2016, Pope Francis gave recourse to the lay faithful to go to SSPX priests to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. Clergy in the SSPX are in a difficult situation, Bp. Fellay said in the interview.
"The Holy See allows and tolerates the priestly ordinations of the Society of St. Pius X while continuing to consider them valid but not licit after they disclose the names of the ordinands to the local bishop," the superior said.