Pope Benedict XVI Restores Four Excommunicated Bishops – Including Holocaust Denier

January 25, 2009

(ChattahBox) — Pope Benedict XVI, has provoked outrage after conceding to the far-right of the Catholic Church, by revoking the excommunications of four schismatic bishops on Saturday, including one whose comments denying the Holocaust.

A particularly controversial aspect of the reinstatement was the inclusion of Richard Williamson (photo left), a British-born cleric who in an interview said he did not believe that 6 million Jews died in the Nazi gas chambers.  In a November interview broadcast on Swedish television last week and widely available on the Internet, Williamson said he thought “the historical evidence” was hugely against the conclusion that millions of Jews had been “deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.” The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Saturday that Williamson’s comments had “nothing to do with” the pope’s decision to welcome the schismatic bishops back into the fold. He added, “These are declarations that we don’t share in any way.” Lombardi called the revocation of the excommunications a fundamental step toward the unity of the church, after two decades of rift. “We have to consider it very positive news,” he added.
Williamson has also given interviews saying that the U.S. government staged the Sept. 11 attacks as a pretext to invade Afghanistan. The recent comments by Williamson, who led a traditionalist seminary in Ridgefield, Conn., at the time he was made bishop and later moved to a seminary in Argentina (naturally), inevitably overshadowed the debate about traditional and liberal strains in the Roman Catholic Church.

The four reinstated men are members of the Society of St. Pius X, which was founded by the late ultraconservative French archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre, in 1970 as a protest against the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Lefebvre made the four bishops in unsanctioned consecrations in Switzerland in 1988, prompting the immediate excommunication of all five as an act of schism by Pope John Paul II.

Critics of Benedict feel his 4-year-old papacy has proven increasingly hostile to moderates and to the sweeping reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s that sought to create a more modern and open church.
In recent years, Benedict has made other concessions to the Lefebvrists, including allowing the broader recitation of the Latin Mass, which was made optional in the 1960s Vatican reforms and includes a Good Friday prayer calling for the conversion of Jews.

In a statement Saturday, the Vatican said that the pope would “reconsider” whether to formally affirm the four as full bishops, but referred to the men by that title.

Jewish groups denounced the Vatican for having embraced a Holocaust denier and warned that the pope’s decision would have serious implications for Catholic-Jewish relations as well as the pontiff’s planned visit to the Holy Land later this year.


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