PARIS -- Rebel French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre has said he intends to consecrate, on June 30, at least three bishops to succeed him, a gesture of defiance that could lead to his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church.

The 82-year-old traditionalist, in an interview published on Thursday in the French daily Le Figaro, said he hopes to win Pope John Paul II's approval for the consecrations.

"But if he were not to give it I would take no notice, for the sake of the church and its continuing tradition," he added.

Under canon law, the consecration of bishops without Vatican approval is grounds for automatic excommunication.

Lefebvre, who rejects reforms introduced by the Second Vatican Council between 1962 and 1965, continues to function as a priest and bishop despite his suspension from all priestly duties by Pope Paul VI in 1976.

His dissident order, the Fraternity of Pius X, has more than 200 priests in 28 nations. It still holds its masses in Latin.

The Vatican announced in October that it would send Canadian Cardinal Michel Gagnon to visit the order's branches in France, Switzerland and West Germany. The apostolic envoy reported his findings to the Vatican last month.

Lefebvre said he is hopeful of a positive reaction from the church as the Vatican had already agreed in principle to his three main demands.

He told Gagnon he wants a Vatican commission to be set up to safeguard church tradition, at least three bishops from the fraternity to be appointed to succeed him and priests belonging to his order to be independent of bishops in the diocese.