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According to Canon law, the FSSP is a "Clerical Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right." It is not an Institute of Consecrated Life, and members take no religious vows, but are instead bound by the same general laws of celibacy and obedience as diocesan clergy and, in addition, swear an oath as members of the Society. The Fraternity's Pontifical right status means that it has been established by the Pope and is answerable only to him in terms of their operation (through the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei), rather than to local bishops. A local bishop still governs the Fraternity's work within his respective diocese. In this sense its organization and administrative reporting status are similar to those of religious orders of pontifical right such as the Jesuits and Dominicans.
The FSSP consists of priests and seminarians who intend to pursue the goal of Christian perfection according to a specific charism, which is to offer the Mass and other sacraments according to the Roman Rite, as it existed before the Second Vatican Council. Thus, the Fraternity uses the Roman Missal, the Roman Breviary, the Pontifical (Pontificale Romanum), and the Roman Ritual, according to the editions of 1962, the last before the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council were promulgated.
This older form of the Mass, known as the Tridentine Mass (promulgated by Pope St. Pius V and Pope John XXIII), is now collectively known as the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, by decree of Pope Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.
Following from its charism, the Fraternity's mission is twofold: to sanctify each priest through the exercise of his priestly function; and to deploy these priests to parishes. As such, they are to celebrate the sacraments, catechise, organise youth groups (e.g. Boy Scouts/Girl Guides or similar), preach retreats, organize pilgrimages, and generally provide a full sacramental and cultural life for lay Catholics who are likewise drawn to the rituals of the 1962 missal. In order to help complete its mission, the Fraternity has built its own seminaries with the goal of forming men to serve the Fraternity.
The FSSP was established on July 18, 1988 at the Abbey of Hauterive, Switzerland by twelve priests, twenty-four boys and a score of seminarians (led by Father Josef Bisig) who had formerly belonged to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's Society of St. Pius X; they were unwilling to follow that movement into what the Congregation for Bishops and Pope John Paul II defined to be a schismatic act and grounds for excommunication latæ sententiæ due to the consecration of four bishops without a papal mandate.  Father Josef Bisig became the Fraternity's first superior general.
The FSSP's current superior general is the Very Rev. John Berg. The Vicar General and Assistant is the Very Rev. Patrick du Faÿ.
The Fraternity is divided into three districts and three regions:
- German-speaking District, Superior: Father Axel Maußen
- French (France) District, Superior: Father Vincent Ribeton
- North American District, Superior: Father Eric Flood
- Belgium-Netherlands Region, Superior: Father Hervé Hygonnet
- Southern Cross Region, Superior: Father William Define
The Fraternity has two seminaries:
- The International Seminary of St. Peter in Wigratzbad-Opfenbach, in the German state of Bavaria (Diocese of Augsburg), was established in 1988. It serves French and German-speaking seminarians.
- Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, in Denton, Nebraska, USA (Diocese of Lincoln), was established in 1994 and serves English-speaking seminarians.
They also operate a boarding school, St. Gregory's Academy in Elmhurst, Pennsylvania.
As of October 2009[update], the FSSP included 359 members: 219 priests 11 deacons and 129 seminarians in 109 dioceses spread among Australia, Austria, Benin, Canada, Columbia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, Switzerland, and the USA.
- Josef Bisig (1988–2000)
- Arnaud Devillers (2000 - 2006)
- John Berg (7 July 2006 - )
- The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter was founded in July 1988 by 12 clerics who had been members or associates of the Society of St. Pius X. Why did they leave? They left when Archbishop Lefebvre decided to consecrate four bishops against the express will of the Holy Father. A Response to Christopher Ferrara Father Arnaud Devillers, Superior General, Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter – Summer 2002
- New District Superior for the FSSP « Una Voce Carmel
- FSSP Overview from the FSSP
- Address by Father Arnaud Devillers, former FSSP Superior General, at the Ordinary General Assembly Of The Synod Of Bishops October 2001
- Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (International website) Main website with pages in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Polish, and Latin
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