Vatican tells Holocaust denying bishop to recant

By staff writers
February 4, 2009

Following vast international pressure and condemnation, including a sharp riposte from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Vatican says it is asking a holocaaut-denying bishop to publicly recant.

A statement issued today said that English-born Bishop Richard Williamson, whose excommunication was rescinded recently, must "unequivocally" reject his statements to serve in the Roman Catholic Church.

The statement also says that Pope Benedict had not been aware of the bishop's views when he lifted excommunications on him and three other bishops last month.

The episode has been a public relations disaster for the 1.2 biilion-strong Catholic Church, and especially the pontiff. A senior cardinal has acknowledged that the Vatican had badly mishandled the issue.

Der Spiegel has quoted Vatican insiders who suggest that the Pope is "surrounded by lackeys who shielded him from the media".

Hans Küng, a famous progressive Catholic theologian 'disciplined' by Benedict when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, said: "Benedict XVI is so cut off from the real world that he has no idea how disastrously his actions are received."

The Pope's ending of Bishop Williamson's excommunication on the unrelated matter of his involvement in a right-wing breakaway Church group caused a bitter row when it became known that he had denied that six million Jews and others were murdered by the Nazis in World War Two.

On 3 February 2009, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared: "This is not just a matter, in my opinion, for the Christian, Catholic and Jewish communities in Germany but the Pope and the Vatican should clarify unambiguously that there can be no denial."

Der Speigel magazine this week carried a photograph of Benedict XVI and the headline: "A German Pope disgraces the Catholic Church."

A new wave of embarrassment swept Germany and Austria earlier this week following the Vatican's decision to promote a priest who claimed that the Harry Potter books "spread Satanism" and that Hurricane Katrina was an act of "divine retribution" against gays.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is in charge of relations between the Roman Catholic church and Jewish leaders, admitted different parts of the Vatican administration had not talked enough to each other, and failed to check where problems could arise, reports the BBC.

After Chancellor Merkel's comments, the Vatican issued a statement saying: "With reference to the latest requests for clarification concerning the position of the Pope and the Catholic Church on the subject of the Holocaust, it should be borne in mind that the Pope's ideas on this matter were very clearly expressed at the synagogue of Cologne, Germany, on 19 August 2005, at the concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau on 28 May 2006, in the general audience of 31 May 2006 and, more recently, at the end of his general audience of 28 January this year, with unambiguous words of which we highlight the following: '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. May the Shoah be for everyone an admonition against oblivion, negation and reductionism."

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