Vatican scrambles as holocaust-denying Bishop promises to 'look again'
Stephen C. Webster
Published: Saturday February 7, 2009

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The Vatican is in damage control mode in a continuing row over a Bishop who recently espoused beliefs that the Nazis did not use gas chambers to murder Jews, and that far fewer than 6 million were slaughtered during the Holocaust.

Because of the remarks by British Bishop Richard Williamson, Israel's chief Rabbinate suspended communication with the Catholic church, but resumed talks Saturday after it was announced that Pope Benedict would meet with Jewish groups to mend ties.

But it appears the media saga of Bishop Williamson is not over. "Since I see that there are many honest and intelligent people who think differently, I must look again at the historical evidence," he told Der Spiegel, according to the Jerusalem Post. "It is about historical evidence, not about emotions. And if I find this evidence, I will correct myself. But that will take time."

Wednesday, the Vatican demanded he recant his views of the Holocaust, but not before he had become the toast of far-right groups in Germany, according to Der Spiegel.

The British Bishop made his comments on Swedish television shortly after his two-decade excommunication was lifted by the Pope.

"Williamson and three other bishops were excommunicated 20 years ago after they were consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent," reports the AP.

"'We absolutely didn't know anything about this Williamson, I really think that no one was aware of it,' Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos was quoted as saying in an interview published in Corriere della Sera," the wire service continued.

"Jewish groups denounced Benedict for embracing Williamson, who denied during an interview broadcast last week on Swedish state TV that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. The bishop said only about 200,000 or 300,000 were killed."

"Anti-Semitism can only be bad if it is against the truth," Williamson said in the controversial interview. "But if something is true, it cant be bad. I am not interested in the word anti-Semitism."

"In Germany, the head of the German Catholic Bishops Conference demanded that Williamson apologize," said AP. But at least one other within the church rose to defend the statements.

Rev. Floriano Abrahamowicz took up for Williamson's position in Italian paper La Tribuna di Treviso, saying, "I know gas chambers existed at least to disinfect, I can't say if anybody was killed in them or not."

The "ultra-conservative" St. Pius X, of which Abrahamowicz was a member, expelled him for the comments, according to a published report.

"The expulsion decision, while difficult, was deemed necessary to prevent the image of the Society of St. Pius X from being further distorted, and thus hurt its work in the service of the church," the sect said in a published statement.

"The former Hitler Youth Pope needs to do a bit of research himself the next time he decides to promote someone," writes Americablog's Joe in Paris. "At a minimum, the Pope ought to force the Holocaust denier to visit some of the death camps and meet with survivors. Not to mention, the very notion that a Catholic bishop personally endorsed by the Pope is still questioning the Holocaust, and now claims it may take a long time before he's able to satisfy himself that it happened, is absolutely despicable. The Vatican is now, quite literally, enabling Holocaust deniers across the globe."

On his blog "The Dinoscopus," Bishop Williamson writes, "Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems.

"For me, all that matters is the Truth Incarnate, and the interests of His one true Church, through which alone we can save our souls and give eternal glory, in our little way, to Almighty God."

The following video of Bishop Williamson's remarks aired on Swedish television.

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