Archbishop Lefebvre, from memory recalls that he sent the following note to the Pope:-
“Most Holy Father
Will your Holiness be pleased to accept the assurance of my respectful veneration? If in my words or my writings certain expressions have displeased Your Holiness, I am exceedingly sorry. I am still hoping that your Holiness will kindly grant me an audience and I assure you of my respectful and filial feelings. Rome 10 September 1976.
…So the next day Saturday, at quarter past ten, I went to Castelgandolfo, and there I really believe the Holy Angels had driven out the Vatican employees because I had come back there. There were two Swiss Guards at the entrance, and after that I encountered only Mgr. X (not Mgr. Y their names are very alike). Mgr. X (the Canadian) conducted me to the lift. Only the lift man was there that is all, and I went up. The three of us went up to the first floor, and there, accompanied by Mgr. X I went through all the rooms: there are at least seven or eight before you come to the Holy Father’s office. Not a living soul! Usually – I have often been to private audiences in the days of Pope Pius XI, Pope Pius XII, Pope John XXIII, and even Pope Paul VI – there is always at least one Swiss Guard, always a gendarme, always several people, a private chamberlain, a monseignor who is present if only to keep an eye on things and prevent incidents. But the rooms were empty – nothing, absolutely nothing. So I went to the Holy Father’s office, where I found the Holy Father with Mgr. Benelli at his side. I greeted the Holy father and I greeted Mgr. Benelli. We seated ourselves at once, and the audience began.
The Holy Father was lively enough at the beginning – one could almost call it somewhat violent in a way; one could feel that he was deeply wounded and rather provoked by what we are doing. He said to me:
“You condemn me, you condemn me. I am a Modernist. I am a Protestant. It cannot be allowed. You are doing an evil work, you ought not to continue, you are causing scandal in the church, etc …” with nervous irritability.
I kept quiet, you may be sure. After that he said to me: “Well speak now, speak. What have you to say. I said to him
“Holy Father, I come here but not as the head of the traditionalists. You have said I am head of the traditionalists. I deny flatly that I am head of the traditionalists. I am only a Catholic, a priest, a bishop among Millions of Catholics, thousands of priests and other Bishops who are torn and pulled apart in conscience, in mind in heart…”
To be continued
From Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre by Michael Davies.