Holocaust denial bishop apologizes

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI
Image: Fabio Pozzebom for Agência Brasil.

A bishop who denied the deaths of 6 million Jewish people in the Nazi Holocaust has apologized to the Pope.

Bishop Richard Williamson was excommunicated by Pope John Paul II in 1988 due to his membership of the Society of St. Pius X, which did not accept the Vatican II reforms of the mid-1960s. Pope Benedict XVI allowed Williamson back into the Roman Catholic church last Saturday. A few days before that, Swedish state television, SVT broadcast an interview in which Williamson said, "I believe there were no gas chambers, yes. I don’t think 6 million Jews were gassed", according to euronews. CNN gives the quote as "I believe that the historical evidence is strongly against — is hugely against — 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler".

Williamson has now written to Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, who handles the reintegration of excommunicated Society of Saint Pius X members, to apologize for the distress and problems he caused with his statement. He wrote: "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," CNN reports.

The apology was followed by further problems when a fellow member of the Society was quoted in an Italian newspaper as saying he did not know if anyone had died in Nazi gas chambers. The Associated Press say that Father Floriano Abrahamowicz confirmed that the remarks, made to La Tribuna di Treviso, were his.

Last Wednesday, the Pope included a reference to Holocaust denial at the end of his weekly audience. Recently returned from a trip to the site of one of the camps, he said remembering the Holocaust "induces humanity to reflect on the unpredictability of evil when it conquers the heart of man. The Shoah be for all a warning against oblivion, against denial or reductionism, because the violence done against one human being is violence done against all."