Home News Holocaust-denying bishop returns to Britain

Holocaust-denying bishop returns to Britain

Published on 26/02/2009

London — A British Roman Catholic bishop who has denied the Holocaust took place arrived back in London on Wednesday after being ordered to leave Argentina, amid mystery over his future plans.

Richard Williamson was surrounded by an armed police guard and a crowd of journalists as he emerged from the arrivals gate of London’s Heathrow airport after flying in from Buenos Aires, an AFP photographer said.

The 68-year-old bishop, dressed in black and wearing his dog collar, refused to answer questions from reporters as he was ushered to a waiting car by police and supporters.

The Argentine government last Thursday gave Williamson 10 days to leave the country for having "deeply shocked Argentine society, the Jewish people and all of humanity."

Television pictures showed him raising his fist to a journalist as he left Ezeiza international airport in Buenos Aires.

The bishop had been living at a seminary run by the ultra-conservative Saint Pius X Society 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the Argentine capital.

He has been at the centre of a raging controversy after saying on Swedish television last month: "There was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies."

Williamson said he believed "200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but none of them by gas chambers."

The row is hugely embarrassing for the Vatican.

He was one of four bishops that Pope Benedict XVI agreed to take back last month in an attempt by the Vatican to heal a split with traditionalists who rejected reforms of the early 1960s.

Williamson has refused to withdraw his claims, despite Vatican demands.

The Times newspaper reported Wednesday that he had contacted the revisionist British historian David Irving for advice on how to present his views on the Holocaust.

Michele Renouf, an Australian-born former beauty queen, was at the airport to greet Williamson.

She defended Irving when he was jailed in Austria in 2006 for denying the Holocaust took place.

The Saint Pius X Society has distanced itself from the bishop’s comments.

Christian Bouchacourt, a senior official of the society, told AFP on Wednesday he had no idea of Williamson’s future plans.

"I don’t know anything at all. That now depends on him and his Superior General (a senior Catholic official)," he said.

"I think it will all be done discretely and kept ‘in the family’."

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have condemned Williamson’s views on the Holocaust as "totally unacceptable".

A spokesman for the bishops said he had "absolutely no idea" where he was going following his arrival in Britain.

"He does not fall into the jurisdiction of any of the England and Wales bishops because he is not in full communion with the Catholic Church.

"From the hierarchy’s perspective, he has got nothing to do with the bishops of this country," the spokesman said.

Greville Janner, a British peer who is president of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: "It would be much better if Williamson was not here as his views are anti-Semitic, extremely offensive, and insulting to the millions who witnessed and suffered the horrors of the Holocaust.

"Sadly, as a British citizen, he cannot be prevented."

Conservative Catholic groups have often become embroiled in controversy over their links to Nazis and their views on Nazi actions in World War II.

During the Nazis’ reign in Germany from 1933 to 1945, some six million Jews were killed in death camps alongside hundreds of thousands of gypsies, homosexuals, political opponents and disabled people.

Thousands of Germans immigrated to Argentina before and after the war, including several Nazi officials and collaborators, and Argentina was seen for decades as a haven for fleeing Nazi war criminals.

Leon Neal/AFP/Expatica