Chancellor Merkel Joins German Criticism of Pope’s Handling of Holocaust Denial by Bishop

February 3, 2009

(ChattahBox) — German Chancellor Chancellor Angela Merkel today criticized Pope Benedict XVI for reinstating a Catholic bishop who denied elements of the Nazi Holocaust.

The Pope’s Jan. 24 decision to lift the excommunication of Richard Williamson and three other traditionalist priests, who broke with the church in the 1980s, has caused great outrage. At the center of the storm is British-born Bishop Williamson who angered Jewish leaders across the world in November when he told Swedish TV: “I believe there were no gas chambers [during World War II].”

He said he believed that up “300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but none of them by gas chambers”. About six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.  Williamson apologized Jan. 31 on his Web site for the “distress and problems” his “imprudent” comments caused the Vatican.

The Vatican says it was unaware of Bishop Williamson’s views on the Holocaust when the decision was made to readmit the group.

Nearly four years after a rare outburst of national pride over the election of a German pope, Merkel, told reporters in Berlin. “To my mind, there has not been enough clarification. It is a fundamental question when a Vatican decision creates the impression that Holocaust denial might be tolerated and that fundamental questions of relations with Jews are at stake. This should not be allowed to pass without consequences. 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,” she said.

The Chancellor’s remarks follow wide criticism in Germany including the daily Bild newspaper, which devoted most of its second page to the scandel.

“The pope has made a serious mistake. That he is a German pope makes the matter especially bad,” read its editorial.

“Pope Benedict XVI is inflicting great damage on Germany… The pope must correct his mistake, reverse his decision and excuse himself,” it said, in comments echoed by other papers.


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