February 28, 2009
Vatican Says Bishop Fell Short
By RACHEL DONADIO
ROME The Vatican on Friday said that a recent apology by a bishop who has denied the scope of the Holocaust was not sufficient to restore him to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
Last month, Pope Benedict XVI provoked worldwide outrage when he revoked the excommunication of four schismatic bishops, including Richard Williamson, who in a television interview broadcast a few days earlier had denied the existence of the Nazi gas chambers.
In a statement published Thursday by the Zenit Catholic news agency, Bishop Williamson apologized to the pope, the church and survivors and relatives of victims of injustice under the Third Reich. But he did not address the substance of his views on the Holocaust.
In an informal statement to reporters on Friday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said that Bishop Williamsons apology did not meet the expectations set forth by the Vatican earlier this month.
Rev. Lombardi referred to a statement from the Vatican Secretariat of State on Feb. 4, which said that Bishop Williamson must absolutely, unequivocally and publicly distance himself from his positions on the Shoah, or Holocaust, or he would not be allowed to serve as a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church.
A rare instance of the Vatican elaborating on earlier remarks by the pope himself, that statement came as part of an intense damage-control effort to soften the impact of the appearance of a German pope pardoning a Holocaust denier.
Benedict has said he revoked the excommunication of four bishops from the ultra-traditionalist Society of St. Pius X to heal a schism in the church. The society was founded in 1970 to reject the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
The status of Bishop Williamson and the other three bishops remains uncertain. It hinges on internal discussion between the four and the Vatican committee that oversees relations with the society.
The Vatican has also clarified that the bishops must accept the teachings of Vatican II before they can be brought in full communion with the church.
Bishop Williamson, a Briton, arrived in Britain earlier this week after being expelled from Argentina, where he directed a seminary. In recent press reports in Britain and Italy, David Irving, a historian who served jail time in Austria for Holocaust denial, said that Bishop Williamson had contacted him seeking material on the Holocaust.
I explained to him that the best thing would be to admit that there were mass homicides organized from 1942 to 1943 in three camps controlled by Himmler: Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec, Mr. Irving said in an interview with the Turin daily La Stampa on Friday, referring to Heinrich Himmler, one of Hitlers key deputies. The numbers need to be checked, but his excellency cant debate that they happened, Mr. Irving added.
Mr. Irving said his recent email correspondence with Bishop Williamson began after Israel set off this storm against the church, led by a German pope, to distract the world from the massacre in Gaza. Efforts to reach Mr. Irving were unsuccessful.