Vatican: Cardinal slams bishop for Holocaust denial

Vatican City, 26 Jan. (AKI) - A senior Vatican cleric tasked with promoting dialogue between the Catholic Church and Judaism has criticised a recently rehabilitated bishop who denied the Nazis' extermination of six million Jews during World War II. Cardinal Walter Kasper, director of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, criticised the traditionalist bishop, Richard Williamson, for his controversial denial of the World War II Holocaust.

In an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica, Kasper, who is also the liaison for Vatican-Jewish relations said of Williamson's statements: "These are unacceptable words.To deny the Holocaust is stupid and is a position that has nothing to do with the Catholic Church."

Williamson was among four schismatic bishops whose excommunication was revoked by Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday. The move sparked indignation among Jewish groups and liberal Catholics.

The four rehabilitated bishops came from a sect founded in opposition to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. The bishops are members of the St. Pius X Society, founded in 1970 by a French archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre, in opposition to Vatican II reforms.

They were excommunicated by Pope John Paul II in 1988 after Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated them in unsanctioned ceremonies.

La Repubblica quoted Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni , saying it was the Lefebvre movement - not just Williamson that is problematic.

British-born Williamson has made a number of statements denying the full extent of the Holocaust. In a recent television interview he said the “historical evidence” was against six million Jews having died in the Nazi gas chambers.

The pontiff's move to rehabilitate Williamson triggered sharp criticism from Robert Rozem, head of the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem.

Rozem said it was "scandalous" that someone of Williamson's status should deny the Holocaust. He described his remarks as "unacceptable and hateful."

The Pope is due to visit the museum during his visit to Israel in May.

In an apparent defence of his rehabilitation of the four schismatic bishops, the Pope in his televised Angelus address on Sunday, said "courageous gestures of reconciliation are needed between us Christians."

Kasper also praised the Pope's move describing it as "a gesture to favour the reconstruction of a united church."

"I understand that Williamson's comments may cast a shadow over relations with the Jewish community, but I am sure that dialogue will continue.

"We have good relations," Kasper said. "Events in Gaza have complicated things," he added, referring to Israel's recent military offensive in the coastal strip, which killed 1,300 Palestinians and injured over 5,000.

During the Gaza offensive, Cardinal Renato Martino drew criticism from Israel for describing Gaza as "a big concentration camp."

The chief rabbi of Venice Enrico Richetti earlier this month announced a boycott of the Church's annual celebration of Judaism saying decisions by Benedict were undermining years of interfaith progress.

Jews have also criticised moves by the Catholic Church to beatify Pope Pius II on the grounds that he did not do enough to save Jews in Italy during World War II.


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