Cleric must distance himself from his comments
ROME, Italy (CNN) — The Vatican said Friday it is not satisfied by the apology issued by a Catholic bishop who denied the Holocaust, saying the cleric must still clearly “distance himself” from the controversial comments.
Bishop Richard Williamson, who is now in England, issued a statement Thursday saying he regretted making the remarks. But he did not retract them or say he had changed his mind about the Holocaust.
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A Vatican spokesman pointed out that the apology, which was posted on a Catholic Web site, was not addressed to Pope Benedict XVI.
“The bishop’s ‘statement’ does not appear to respect the conditions set by the secretariat of state on February 4, 2009, whereby he must also distance himself in an absolutely unequivocal and public from his stand regarding the Shoah (Holocaust),” said Padre Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.
Williamson said in an interview with Swedish television that he did not believe that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler deliberately set out to murder Jews or that there were gas chambers at the Auschwitz death camp.
Williamson hit the headlines partly because the pope lifted his long-standing excommunication, along with that of three other members of the ultra-conservative Society of St. Pius X, shortly after the interview was broadcast.
The excommunication and its reversal were not related to Williamson’s Holocaust denial.
The church said Benedict was not aware of Williamson’s views on the Holocaust when the excommunication was lifted, and ordered Williamson to recant.
Germany may issue warrant for Holocaust bishop
Germany is considering issuing an arrest warrant on hate crime charges against a Holocaust-denying bishop, the country’s justice minister said Friday.
It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Germany and in several other EU countries.
German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries, speaking in the sidelines of EU justice ministers’ talks in Brussels, said officials in her country were considering issuing an EU-wide warrant because the ultraconservative clergyman Richard Williamson denied the Holocaust during a Swedish television interview that was recorded in Germany. He lives in Britain.
A German investigation into Williamson’s remarks was already under way, Zypries said.
A new set of EU guidelines to toughen up national anti-racism and hate crime laws was passed in 2007.
Those new guidelines will commit all 27 EU countries to impose criminal sanctions against people or groups that publicly incite violence or hatred against other groups or persons based on race, color, religion, descent or ethnic origin.
The guidelines also recommend EU nations impose prison sentences of up to three years for those convicted of denying genocide, such as the mass killing of Jews during World War II and the 1990s massacre in Rwanda. That rule would apply only to genocides that have officially been recognized under statutes of the International Criminal Court.
Not all EU countries have implemented the new guidelines yet, EU officials said.