Holocaust-denying bishop told to leave Argentina
Bishop Richard Williamson has been at the center of a raging controversy over his statements last month that the Nazis did not use gas chambers to kill Jews during World War II.Buenos Aires -- Argentina ordered the expulsion of an ultra-conservative British bishop who has denied the Holocaust, giving him 10 days to leave the country, the interior ministry said Thursday.
Bishop Richard Williamson has been at the center of a raging controversy over his statements last month, that were given just before Pope Benedict XVI was to lift his excommunication, that the Nazis did not use gas chambers to kill Jews during World War II.
Argentina's Interior Minister Florencio Randazo announced that the national immigration office had told Williamson to leave the country in 10 days "in the awareness that his expulsion has been decreed."
The Argentine government said Williamson's beliefs "deeply shocked Argentine society, the Jewish people and all of humanity, to deny a proven historical truth."
Williamson had also deceived Argentina's immigration services, according to the government.
"The bishop has repeatedly forged the real reason for his stay in the country," the government said in a statement.
Earlier this month, an Argentine seminary 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Buenos Aires ousted Williamson, where he was a leading figure.
The conservative Roman Catholic Saint Pius X Society for Latin America said Williamson's comments "in no way reflect the position of our congregation," and said the bishop "cannot speak with ecclesiastical authority except on matters concerning faith and morality."
The government's expulsion announcement received warm praise from Argentina's 300,000-strong Jewish community, the largest in South America.
Williamson was one of four bishops that Pope Benedict agreed to take back last month in an attempt by the Vatican to heal a split with traditionalists who did not accept reforms of the early 1960s.
But two days later Williamson, 68, went on record in an interview with Swedish SVT television, saying that he did not believe gas chambers were used in the Holocaust.
"I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but none of them by gas chambers," he said. "There was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies."
During the Nazi's reign in Germany from 1933 to 1945, about six million Jews were slaughtered in extermination camps alongside hundreds of thousands of gypsies, homosexuals, political opponents and disabled people.
The Vatican called on Williamson to recant his views -- which he has refused -- but Pope Benedict maintained he would not reconsider the end of the excommunication.
Williamson told the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel in an interview last week that he would reexamine the historical evidence of the Nazi gas chambers but made no sign that he had changed his views.
"If I find proof I would rectify (earlier statements) ... but all that will take time," he was quoted as saying.
Conservative Catholic groups have, at regular intervals, hit controversy over their links to Nazis and their views on Nazi actions in World War II.
The Italian chapter of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X earlier February announced it had cut ties with Italian Father Floriano Abrahamowicz after he criticized the Vatican and said gas chambers were used for "disinfecting."