Out­rage as Pope lifts banon Holo­caust de­nier

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY SI­MON ROCKER

JEWISH LEADERS are call­ing on the Vat­i­can to re­pair the dam­age caused by the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of an ul­tra-con­ser­va­tive bishop who is a Holo­caust de­nier.

Rabbi David Rosen, pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Jewish Com­mit­tee on In­ter­re­ligous Con­sul­ta­tions, be­lieved the con­tro­versy “worse than any of the crises we have had with the Catholic Church”, al­most since the new era of di­a­logue be­gan more than 40 years ago.

Pope Bene­dict XVI lifted the ex­com­mu­ni­ca­tion of English-born Bishop Richard Wil­liamson, who in an in­ter­view on Swedish tele­vi­sion last week said that at most 300,000 Jews died in Nazi camps and that there were no gas cham­bers.

The Catholic Her­ald has also re­ported that the bishop be­lieves the an­ti­semitic forgery, The Pro­to­cols of the El­ders of Zion, is au­then­tic. He was also quoted by the pa­per to have once writ­ten: “In ac­cor­dance with their false mes­sianic vo­ca­tion of Jewish world-dom­i­na­tion, the Jews are pre­par­ing the Anti-Christ’s throne in Jerusalem.”

Rabbi Rosen said: “We can’t ex­pect them now to cast Wil­liamson out of the Catholic Church. It’s not re­al­is­tic. It is rea­son­able that they de­mand he re­cant and ask him to apol­o­gise.”

He also doubted whether the Pope’s visit to Is­rael in May would go ahead “un­less some­thing hap­pens to over­come the cri­sis”.

Sir Sig­mund Stern­berg, pa­tron of the In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil of Chris­tians and Jews, wrote to the Pope’s Bri­tish en­voy to say that, in or­der to avert a cri­sis, he be­lieved it “nec­es­sary for there to be a cat­e­gor­i­cal re­pu­di­a­tion of Bishop Wil­liamson’s ou­tra­geous po­si­tions from the high­est level at the Holy See”.

In re­sponse, the Pa­pal Nun­cio, Arch­bishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, said that while he agreed that Bishop Wil­liamson’s state­ment was “com­pletely un­ac­cept­able, I would wish to point out that the mat­ter of the lift­ing of the ex­com­mu­ni­ca­tion is com­pletely un­re­lated to it”.

As Is­rael’s Chief Rab­bis broke off di­a­logue with the Vat­i­can, Pope Bene­dict ap­peared to re­act to Jewish out­rage by warn­ing against Holo­caust de­nial in an au­di­ence with pil­grims on Wed­nes­day. “As I once again af­fec­tion­ately ex­press my full and in­dis­putable sol­i­dar­ity with our broth­ers and sis­ters who re­ceived the First Covenant, I trust that the mem­ory of the Shoah will in­duce hu­mankind to re­flect upon the un­pre­dictable power of evil when it con­quers the heart of man,” he said.

The Vat­i­can re­scinded the ban on Bishop Wil­liamson and three other bish­ops as a rap­proche­ment with a tra­di­tion­al­ist splin­ter group, the So­ci­ety of Saint Pius X, founded by Arch­bishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The bish­ops were ex­com­mu­ni­cated in 1988 af­ter be­ing con­se­crated by Lefebvre in de­fi­ance of the Pope. How­ever, de­spite this week’s move, they are not yet per­mit­ted by the Vat­i­can to act as bish­ops. The head of the so­ci­ety, Bishop Bernard Fel­lay, has now or­dered Wil­liamson, 68 and rec­tor of an Ar­gen­tinian sem­i­nary, not to com­ment on pol­i­tics or his­tory.

Fa­ther John Paw­likowski, di­rec­tor of Catholic-Jewish stud­ies at the Catholic The­o­log­i­cal Union in Chicago, said: “I do see a rather dis­turb­ing pat­tern in the way Pope Bene­dict has ap­proached the Holo­caust since be­com­ing pope.

“He tends to see it as a rather pa­gan phe­nom­e­non that at­tacked all re­li­gion and doesn’t re­ally seem to want to ac­knowl­edge any sig­nif­i­cant Chris­tian cul­pa­bil­ity. In that re­gard, he is quite dif­fer­ent from John Paul II.”

Rabbi Rosen said that the de­ci­sion to re­ha­bil­i­tate Wil­liamson had ap­par- ently been taken without con­sul­ta­tion with Car­di­nal Wal­ter Kasper, who over­sees the Vat­i­can’s re­la­tions with Jews. “It’s mind-bog­gling,” he said.

Ruth Gruber writes: The car­di­nal told the Ital­ian press ear­lier this week that “to deny the Holo­caust is stupid and is a po­si­tion that has noth­ing to do with the Catholic church”.

He added: “I un­der­stand that Wil­liamson’s state­ments can throw a shadow over re­la­tions with Ju­daism, but I am con­vinced di­a­logue will con­tinue”.

Over a year ago the Pope re­in­stated a Latin rite which in­cludes an Easter prayer for Jews to recog­nise Christ. Ital­ian rab­bis, still an­gry at the change, pulled out of a day of di­a­logue with the Vat­i­can ear­lier this month.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Bishop Richard Wil­liamson

PHOTO: AP

The Pope, in his weekly Vat­i­can au­di­ence on Wed­nes­day, tried to play down the row with Jewish leaders

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