5 Feb 2009

Vatican demands Holocaust denier publicly recant

4:10 pm on 5 February 2009

The Vatican has ordered a traditionalist bishop who denies the Holocaust to publicly recant his views if he wants to serve as a prelate in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican said Pope Benedict was not aware of Bishop Richard Williamson's denial of the Holocaust when the pontiff lifted excommunications on him and three other traditionalist bishops last month.

It also said the traditionalist movement the bishop belongs to must accept all teachings of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, which urged respect for Judaism and other religions, as well as all the teachings of popes since 1958.

Bishop Williamson's views on the Holocaust were "absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father," the Vatican said in a statement.

Bishop Williamson told Swedish television in an interview broadcast on 21 January that he believed there were no gas chambers, and that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, rather than the 6 million accepted by mainstream historians.

On 24 January Pope Benedict lifted the excommunications of the four to try to heal a 20-year-old schism that began when they were thrown out of the Church for being ordained without the permission of Pope John Paul II.

Among those who condemned Bishop Williamson and the pope's decision were Holocaust survivors, progressive Catholics, members of the US Congress, Israel's Chief Rabbinate, German Jewish leaders and Jewish writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.