Pope admits mistakes over Holocaust-denying bishop

13th March 2009, Comments 3 comments

The pope suggested in a letter to Catholic bishops around the world that the Vatican was unaware of Richard Williamson's claims that no Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers, and should have consulted the Internet before deciding to lift his ex-communication.

Vatican City -- Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday admitted mistakes in the handling of a Holocaust-denying bishop, but said he had been hurt by attacks made on him over the affair.

The pope suggested in a letter to Catholic bishops around the world that the Vatican was unaware of Richard Williamson's claims that no Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers, and should have consulted the Internet before deciding to lift his ex-communication.

"I have been told that consulting the information available on the Internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on," Benedict said in the letter.

The German pontiff regretted that the "extent and limits" of his "discreet gesture of mercy" to Williamson were "not clearly and adequately explained" at first.

He stressed however that while the bishops have been "invited" back into the fold, they "do not (yet) legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church."

The 81-year-old pontiff, who was to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories in May, thanked "Jewish friends" who helped clear up the "misunderstanding" and "restore an atmosphere of friendship and trust."

Also Thursday, the pope met the Shear-Yashuv Cohen, the Grand Rabbi of Haifa, who thanked Benedict for "clearly" condemning Holocaust denial after the Williamson affair erupted.

The delegation had angrily called off the meeting in late January because of the controversy.

In his letter to the bishops, Benedict also expressed his personal anguish at becoming the target of "open hostility" from within the Church over the move.

"I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility," he wrote.

Urging Catholics to show unity, Benedict quoted the Apostle Paul's Letter to the Galatians: "If you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another."

He wrote: "Sad to say, this 'biting and devouring' also exists in the Church today, as expression of a poorly understood freedom."

Benedict's predecessor Pope John Paul II excommunicated Williamson and three other bishops after traditionalist leader Marcel Lefebvre ordained them as bishops of his separatist church in 1988.

Their fraternity rejected reforms passed by Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, notably including a declaration, Nostra Aetate, which ended a Church doctrine by which the Jews were held responsible for killing Jesus Christ.

"Some groups... openly accused the pope of wanting to turn back the clock to before the Council," Benedict wrote.

Williamson has apologised to anyone offended by his remarks but has refused to retract them, saying only that he would reexamine the historical evidence.

The pope has said previously that he was not aware of Williamson's comments in an interview broadcast on Swedish television in January, that "200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them by gas chambers."

The prelate had made similar assertions in the past, dismissing records of millions killed in gas chambers as "lies, lies, lies."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel led political condemnation of the lifting of the excommunication, also denounced by many European bishops and cardinals.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement that the pope had never expressed himself "in such as personal and intense way" before during his papacy, and that the letter should be accorded "maximum attention."

Gina Doggett/AFP/Expatica

3 Comments To This Article

  • Krapotkin posted:

    on 16th March 2009, 04:44:50 - Reply

    to Matt
    You are not staying on the posting!
    Denying part of the Holocaust is not a mortal sin in the Catholic church as yet! The Curia, is only concerned with the questions of Catholic Faith, not on some Zionist Chutzpah!
    It's the systematic attack by the Jewish Lobbies, on the Bishop and the Pope, that is criminal, not to refuse to accept the brainwashing, used as a propaganda tool to justify the Zionist state!
  • matt posted:

    on 15th March 2009, 16:47:22 - Reply

    The pope is full of s**t. There's no way the curia and his closest aides did not know of Williamson's views.

    Benedict just saw how easily Bush was able to lie with no repercussions and decided to try it himself.
  • Krapotkin posted:

    on 15th March 2009, 15:35:10 - Reply

    The removal of the excommunication by the Pope has nothing to do with the opinions expressed by Rev.Williamson.
    I was not aware that the Holocaust Fable has become part of Roman Catholic canons!
    As H. Fnkelstein, a US History Prof., a Jew, wrote the Holocaust Industry and some other books, to question the validity of the alleged numbers of Jews finalized.
    This well orchestrated attack on the Church and the German Pope, is to cover theZionists crimes in Palestine!
    Amen!