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Catholic Bishop Denying Gas Chambers


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Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson
Tension between the Vatican and Jewish groups looked set to explode yesterday after Pope Benedict XVI rehabilitated a British bishop who has claimed no Jews died in gas chambers during the second world war.

Benedict yesterday welcomed back into the Roman Catholic Church Richard Williamson and three other men who were excommunicated in 1988 after being ordained without Vatican permission. The three had been appointed by breakaway French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The Vatican decree issued yesterday spoke of overcoming the "scandal of divisiveness" and seeking reconciliation with Lefebvre's conservative order, the Society of Saint Pius X, which opposes the modernisation of Catholic doctrine.

But Jewish groups have warned the Pope that the decision could damage Catholic-Jewish relations after Williamson claimed in an interview, broadcast last week, that historical evidence "is hugely against six million having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler ... I believe there were no gas chambers".

Shimon Samuels, of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Paris, said he understood the German-born pope's desire for Christian unity but said Benedict could have excluded Williamson, whose return to the church will "cost" the Vatican politically.

In an interview taped last November and aired last Wednesday on Swedish television, Williamson said he agreed with the "most serious" revisionist historians of the second world war who had concluded that "between 200,000-300,000 perished in Nazi concentration camps, but not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber". Williamson added he realised he could go to jail for Holocaust denial in Germany.

British Jewish groups condemned the decision and said they feared it could damage social cohesion. "The Council of Christians and Jews have said that in recent years there has been a considerable increase in antisemitism from some of the eastern European churches," said Mark Gardner, spokesman for the Community Security Trust which monitors attacks on Jewish people in the UK. Gardner said he hoped the Vatican would make it clear it abhors Williamson's comments about the gas chambers.

"Jews will be extremely alarmed by the lifting of this excommunication on somebody who holds such extreme anti-Jewish views," Gardner said. "I hope the Vatican will speak out on this particular aspect of Williamson's ideology."

Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, warned last week the Vatican's actions would play into the hands of those seeking to stir up trouble. "For the Jewish people ... this development ... encourages hate-mongers everywhere," Steinberg said. Rome's chief rabbi Riccardo Di Segni said that revoking Williamson's excommunication would open "a deep wound".

Senior Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi fought back yesterday, telling the Observer: "Williamson's statements are not agreed with and are open to criticism, and they have nothing to do with the lifting of the excommunication. One is not connected to the other. The Society of Saint Pius X has itself distanced itself from these statements."

Relations between the Vatican and Jewish groups are already strained by the row over Pope Pius XII, who was pontiff during the second world war, and is being considered by the Vatican for beatification. He is accused by some historians and Jewish leaders of failing to speak out against the Holocaust.

Israeli officials recently protested when a senior cardinal said Israel's offensive in Gaza had turned it into a "big concentration camp".

It is not the first controversy for Benedict. His decision to allow freer use of the old Latin mass, including a Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews, caused widespread anger. His reintroduction of the Latin mass earned him criticism from Jewish groups but brought him closer to the Swiss-based Society of Saint Pius X, which opposed many of the changes introduced in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council, including holding mass in local languages.

The society's leader, Lefebvre, was still at odds with Rome in 1988 when he ordained four new bishops, including Williamson, without permission from the Vatican, earning excommunication both for himself and all four bishops. Lefebvre died in 1991.

Benedict has pushed to normalise relations with the society, meeting the current head, bishop Bernard Fellay, shortly after becoming pope in 2005.

In its statement yesterday, the Vatican said Benedict was bringing the bishops back into the fold "with the hope that full conciliation and shared communion is achieved as soon as possible".



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6 comments

  • Msaverio#

    Msaverio December 27, 2011 2:32:00 PM CET

    This guy has NOTHING to do with the Vatican. All the RomanCatholic haters should do a little research. He is from a break-away church which has NO ties to Rome.Before all the Roman Catholic anti-semetic remarks continue I wanted to clarify the opinion of tghis man has nothing to do with Roman Catholicism. Period and Thank you.

  • Lordgaga#

    Lordgaga March 15, 2009 12:24:26 PM CET

    This bishop is a moron.

  • Markcumbriauk#

    Markcumbriauk March 1, 2009 2:43:59 PM CET

    hmmmmmm intresting,

  • Commonground#

    Commonground February 28, 2009 7:03:50 AM CET

    Yes do your research. Wait question before I speak more. What research have you done my friend? The Nazi Reich had one goal. That was erasing freedom. The one concept man has in his mind to connect with the creator. Gas chambers are false. Point one out my fellow researcher. "Jew" what kind of word is this? Riddle me that. Who is an Israelite? What is the star of Saturn?... or wait.. I mean the star of David. The truth goes further back in time than man can imagine just like the universe is so huge you can't imagine. This guy is on base.. way on guard and is defending his freedom of words.

  • Axeman#

    Axeman January 30, 2009 7:40:51 AM CET

    Do some research...Why is this in Hoaxes and disinfo?Looks like info to me...May not agree with it but it is conspiracy theoryThere's no evidence of JFK 2nd shooter but it's not anti-American to say there was one is it?

  • Mastive72#

    Mastive72 January 29, 2009 7:49:58 AM CET

    THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS...ALTHOUGH I AM AGAINST THE ZIONIST MOVEMENT FOR MANY REASONS...THE KILLING OF THESE JEWS IS SO MAJORLY HISTORICALLY RECORDED. WHY WERE THE NAKED BODIES IN PILES, WHY WERE THEY NAKED,,, THEY WERE NOT BURNED UP...THINK ABOUT IT...THERE WERE NO CLOTHES ON THESE PEOPLE WHEN THEY WENT INTO THE CHAMBERS, AND CINIDE MAY HAVE BEEN MIXED WITH ANOTHER GAS, SO THAT THE AMOUNTS USED WOULD BE CONCENTRATED ENOUGH NOT TO HAVE THE EFFECTS SPOKEN OF HERE...MANY 1000'S JEWS WERE KILLED SOMEWAY, THAT IS FACT. WHY WOULD THEY HAVE THESE LARGE CHAMBERS IN THE FIRST PLACE ANYWAY. THIS GUY IS WAY OFF BASE HERE!!



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