Pope did not know about Holocaust denier’s views
VATICAN CITY – The Vatican demanded Wednesday that a bishop who denied the Holocaust recant his positions before being fully admitted into the Roman Catholic Church.
The Vatican also said in a statement that Pope Benedict XVI didn’t know about Bishop Richard Williamson’s views when he agreed to lift his excommunication and that of three other ultraconservative bishops Jan. 21.
The statement was issued by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the pope to make a clearer rejection of Holocaust denials, saying there hadn’t been adequate clarification from the Vatican.
Williamson was shown on Swedish state television days before his rehabilitation was made public saying historical evidence “is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed” during World War II.
Williamson subsequently apologized to the pope for having stirred controversy, but he did not repudiate his comments, in which he also said only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews were killed during World War II and none were gassed.
Williamson and three other bishops were excommunicated in 1988 after they were consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent. Lefebvre founded the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X in 1969, opposed to the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, including its outreach to Jews.
Merkel: Pope must reject Holocaust deniers
BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Pope Benedict XVI to make a “very clear” rejection of Holocaust denials after the Vatican’s rehabilitation of a former bishop who questioned whether 6 million Jews were gassed by the Nazis.
Merkel’s rare and public demand came amid increasing outrage among Germany’s Roman Catholic leaders over the pope’s decision to lift the excommunication of British-born Richard Williamson.
The issue is particularly sensitive in Germany, where denial of the Holocaust is a crime and Roman Catholic leaders have worked hard to restore relations with the Jewish community.
Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, made his first comment on the controversy Tuesday, calling Williamson’s Holocaust denial “deeply offensive and utterly false.” He affirmed the U.S. bishops’ opposition to anti-Semitism.
As a young man in Germany, Benedict, then called Joseph Ratzinger, served briefly in the Hitler Youth corps.
Williamson was consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent. The Holy See has said that removing the excommunication did not imply the Vatican shared his views.
Williamson, in an interview broadcast last month on Swedish state TV, said that historical evidence “is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.”
He cited what he called the estimates of the “most serious” revisionists that “between 200,000 and 300,000 perished in Nazi concentration camps, but not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber.”