Pope meets Devil in Düsseldorf

February 24, 2009

Pope Benedict met the Devil in Düsseldorf on Monday. To be more precise, a large papier-mâché figure of the German-born pontiff shook hands with another figure depicting the Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson. The mock encounter was part of the annual carnival parade on Monday, known as Rose Monday in Germany, where the parade floats traditionally poke fun at public figures.

Benedict’s decision to readmit four excommunicated bishops of the ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) last month sparked off loud protests among Catholics and Jews, especially in the German-speaking countries because Williamson appeared in a Swedish television interview only days before and denied the Nazis used gas chambers or killed six million Jews. The wing on the Williamson figure says “Anti-Semitism” and the brush at the end of his tail says Piusbrüder (Pius Brothers, the German term for the SSPX priests).

Just so there’s no confusion, the Williamson figure sports an armband clearly identifying who Benedict is shaking hands with. Thanks to Ina Fassbender for these shots.

UPDATE: Cardinal Joachim Meisner in nearby Cologne has criticised this float as “not only wrong but hurtful … When mirth becomes malice, a joke becomes a jab and a fantasy becomes a fraud, then the carival suffers.” By contrast, most readers commenting on the website of the local daily Rheinische Post liked it.

Whether such a handshake will ever happen in real life is highly doubtful. Although their 1988 excommunications have been lifted and they have been readmitted into the Roman fold, the four SSPX bishops still have to negotiate their future roles in the Catholic Church.  SSPX leader Bishop Bernard Fellay will probably lead the talks and there is no need for Williamson — who has been ordered to leave Argentina — to be present. After the public relations disaster over the interview, the last thing Benedict will want to do is receive the man at the Vatican.

At 68, Williamson’s most likely posting seems to be retirement, possibly with a virtual diocese out somewhere in cyberspace. He’s kept posting on his blog Dinoscopus. In his review of the film Doubt, he says approvingly that it shows “a Church collapsing for lack of God” but faults its lead actress because “nothing in Meryl Streep’s performance suggests that it is anchored in God.” He also promotes four volumes of his collected sermons and writings. It will be no surprise if we hear still more from him.


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hmmmmmmm, i just love the topic of religion..will someone please prove something?..its been over three billion years and no one can prove anything

Posted by josh the athiest | Report as abusive

These right wingers are blinded by their righteousness. They have gone away from God. They are lost in their own “Christian World.” I wonder what their childhood were like? Maybe it is full of hatred and confusion coupled with cynicism and mistrust. I wonder what kind of parents they had. I am an ordinary Christian (not a born again of course)and I am very upset at the politicking of Bishop Williamson. I never said a bad word against any man in “clothes” because I believed that they are God’s people. But may God forgive me.

Posted by bob | Report as abusive

maybe benedict ought to be more aware of his environs prior to lifting excommunications,and hence would not need to fear public outcry in the first place. on the other hand, i don’t hear the synagogue repudiating “toledoth jeshu” or other anti-christian diatribes; a little own-business-minding would go a long way

Posted by jd | Report as abusive

It is very silly that the Western countries are becoming totalitarian on this Holocaust Revisionism topic. The more the politically correct state demonize this bishop Williamson, the more he will be praised by the general public as a “victim of media witch hunt”. Historical facts should not be abused by politicians from former totalitarian countries like Argentina and Germany to arrest bishops who have a slightly silly view of recent history. This is not the way to raise Shoah awareness. We Jews have our own hotheads. The fact that this bishop Williamson invited a Rabbi to speak to his Catholic seminary in 2002, already means, that he is not an antisemite. He is a Holocaust Revisionist like Mr Irving. They should be countered by historical discussions and dialogue and scientific proof provided, they should be demonized or imprisoned. I think it’s an embarrassment to me, being a Jew, that Catholic bishops are risking incarceration due to his affair. Mr David Irving was jailed in Austria in a political ploy of Austrian socialists to prove they were “Israel friendly”. It was pathetic and only strengthens Neo-Nazi sentiment that “Jews control the world’s capitalist plutocratic governments; not only did they controll the Soviet Union of Kaganovich”. Other nationalist parties could come to think the same.

Stop the witch hunt against this bishop Richard Williamson. The man is from London. Let him live in peace in his birth place and ignore his comments on the shoah and other historical topics. Freedom of religion. Freedom of opinion. Also for Geert Wilders.

Posted by Levi Cohn, Strasbourg | Report as abusive

It is not opportune for the cause of Israeli policy, to allow German carnival persons imply that this bishop Williamson is an “antisemite” supposedly. Exaggeration and demonization are counterproductive.

Posted by Levi Cohn | Report as abusive

The devil is wearing the name of Bishop Williamson like a war medal, and the pope is shaking his hand for a job well down.

Posted by anastasia | Report as abusive

Is this all Reuters can report on? Is it really in the public interest to know how and who managed to caricature the Pope most recently, about an issue that has been resolved long time ago and it was a lame issue to begin with? Or is it Tom Heneghan, or Reuters editors decided that the world should be interested in this, because they are interested? Free and objective press, professionalism, is this it? More like a sleazy tabloid, promoting alienation, bitterness, disillusionment and bigotry. Shame on you, Reuters.

Posted by Newsjunkie | Report as abusive

Levi Cohn, i AGREE WITH YOU 100%. Indeed,instead of namecalling and demonizing the Bishop, they must instead present reasonable and convincing arguments rather than making ad hominem.

Newsjunkie, this is faithworld and it is the discretion of reuters what topics to present which has relevance to faith or religion. The fact that we are given the chance to comment is an indication that they are fair and professionals. In fact, reuters is better off than other mainstream media like CNN, BBC and NBC since we are not given the chance to make comments on their news articles against the POPE and the Catholic Church. Here, our voices are heard.

Posted by Daniel Rosaupan | Report as abusive

“Newsjunkie” — I hesitate to use that term but that’s how you want to be known. It’s fascinating to see the nicknames people choose as their smokescreens to express negative opinions that they don’t dare announce in their own name. We journalists sign the articles we write and stand up for them, warts and all. You’ve opted to hide your identity behind a deceptive pseudonym and then venture out from behind it to lob little verbal hand grenades like “sleazy tabloid” and “bigotry” meant to make you look like an expert. You even huff and puff and try to blow this blog down with a dramatic “Shame on you, Reuters”! LOL! If you’re so convinced you’re right and we’re wrong, why don’t you stand up for your own opinion publicly? Give us your name and email address so readers can contact you like they can contact me. If you won’t, then the shame’s on yourself, isn’t it?

Yes, I said that’s a deceptive pseudonym. You claim to be a “newsjunkie.” A naive reader might think that means you’ve read everything that’s out there and you’re really well informed. Words have meanings, and this word is a term we journalists use the term, usually affectionately, for a professional who just can’t get enough of the news. But what do you show us by the statements you’ve made here? It’s clear you haven’t read even half of what Reuters has written about the Williamson affair. You obviously haven’t even skimmed the copy we’ve produced from the Vatican and elsewhere that quotes people defending the pope for this decision. IF you had read it AND IF you were a real “newsjunkie”, you could never even ask the question of whether this is “all Reuters can report on.” You would see we can report on a lighter side of this issue precisely because we have reported on all the essentials and more already. But you don’t see that because you’re neither the “newsjunkie” you claim to be nor a fair judge of what you read on this blog.

Your charge that this blog post promotes “alienation, bitterness, disillusionment and bigotry” is either a statement of ignorance or a deliberate twisting of the facts. The pope made a decision that was roundly criticised, including by Catholic bishops in several countries (especially the German-speaking countries where sensitivity about Holocaust denial is so strong). These are men sworn to loyalty to the pope who could suffer in their careers for expressing such critical views in full public view (unlike some kibitzers who proclaim their opinions on blog comment pages from behind a veil of anonymity…). Williamson’s comments were so controversial that the German chancellor criticised him and Argentina (where he was living) has expelled him.

Semi-informed critics like yourself — and you’re not the only one on this issue — try to accuse the media of exaggerating this issue without answering the key question why so many bishops have opposed it so publicly. The Vatican is trying to ignore this and the pope’s defenders want the media to ignore it. But this issue and the Vatican’s botched handling of it are such an obvious problem that even the German service of Vatican Radio broadcasts about it almost every day. It knows it wouldn’t be credible among its target audiences in Germany, Austria and Switzerland if it didn’t. The main services in Italian and English are saying a lot less about it — hmmmm, why is that?

What, you didn’t know this information? Seems you’re not that much of a “newjunkie” after all … These are small details that don’t really merit space in a tight news story, but they give real newsjunkies the atmospheric details that influence how news stories are written.

Only when you address facts like this and put them and the Williamson controversy into a context that explains all this will you even start down the path towards becoming a real “newsjunkie.” And even then … you’ll still have along way to go.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

AtheistJosh – who posted below

You may find some kinship in Vedas and Gita written by the Indians over 5000 yrs ago in Sanskrit.

Reason: they set the stage in the universe, brushing aside this tiny planet, and explored human mind and universe alike. They almost said there is no god that we can see, touch or talk to. In a subtle way they proclaimed- the collective intelligence of human race from its inception to its demise cannot figure out the truth about us or universe. A certain level of IQ makes it easy to understand the concepts in those scriptures.
No “my way or highway” attitude there. Presumably, multiple faiths were predicted to appear even that early in time.

Posted by azad dp | Report as abusive

[…] Reuters | Feb 24, 2009 […]

Posted by Pope shakes hands with the Devil in Düsseldorf « Aftermath News | Report as abusive

bob, i consider myself a right winger,but that is my political stance.the term “they have gone away from gods word “would be a more accurate statement,because god is his word and without his word it is not god.jesus said several times “they don,t know who they worship”if you worship by a different word you are worshiping someone one else.i am born again ,which means i an born of the spirit,how do i know, because there is a difference i am not the same person ,”i once was in the dark now i am in the light”this might seem judgemental but it is the truth if a person looks back and sees no change, as jesus,s brother james hinted , then there should be some reflection.a priest who is turbulent like this is wrong because paul talked about our actions causing condemnation and he could be considered doing this.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

The Germans have a guilty conscience for their murderous behaviour in WWII and now they mock the Pope? Clearly Pope Benedict XVI’s lifting of the excommunication had everything to do with an internal matter of the Catholic Church and nothing to do with Bishop Williamson’s wrong opinions. The idea that the Pope is “shaking hands with the devil” is absurd. Germany should look internally first.

Posted by Remy | Report as abusive

Is he a Devil because he asked for proof that 6 million had been killed? Have you ever seen proof? or do you just believe everything you see on TV. This political correctness has gone over the cliff.

Posted by Jerry | Report as abusive

Doesn’t take much to label people antisemitic these days. It’s absurd to call anyone antisemitic just because they do not believe in a particular version of the holocaust. I always thought that to be antisemitic people needed to hate Jews and consider them demonic or less than human in some way. I thought a person actually had to have a bigoted view against Jews as inferior and hell bound. THAT would be antisemitic. But now, if you just disagree with some historical views relating to Jews, even if you support the state of Israel, you are considered antisemitic. The world has gone mad.

Posted by Integrity | Report as abusive

To liken a Catholic bishop to Satan, even in jest, is deeply offensive, and arguably more offensive to us than Bishop Williamson’s original ocmments were to Jews.

Sadly, in this politically correct age we have to show sensitivity and respect towards everyone, except of course Christians.

Posted by Anton | Report as abusive

It’s fine and dandy to be a pro-abort Catholic and receive communion, you can favor homosexual “marriage” and proudly receive the body of Christ. You can favor embryo stem cell research, test tube babies, selective reductions (kill the extras) and be applauded in church. Just don’t breath a single word that might question ANY part of the holocaust. Then, there is no room for you in the Catholic Church (a.k.a. German bishops), no room for you to teach at the seminary in Argentina or in that whole country. The court papers are now being drawn up against the bishop as a warning to the world. Meanwhile a Jewish “comedian” on Israeli TV blasphemes Jesus and Mother Mary and the response is “gosh and golly, is it ok to say we are really mad?”. What a joke!! Appeasement never works. As Pat Buchannan said, it’s time for a “muscular Christianity”. Amen

Posted by John Forester | Report as abusive

Couple points of fact:
1. Williamson was excommunicated in 1995, not 1988.
2. Lifting the excommunication does NOT mean that “they have been readmitted into the Roman fold”, as the article claims. Simply no longer being officially excommunicated does not restore a person to communion, it merely means they are no longer under direct censure. For example, in 1965 Paul VI and the Orthodox Patriarch ofConstantinople, Athenagoras I, lifted the mutual excommunications dating from the eleventh century, but that did NOT restore communion among the two churches.

Posted by Gary | Report as abusive

Whoever did this, I have a question : Is that yourself the Holy Pope is shaking hands with? Is he trying to convince you to change your life?

Posted by Mary Rodrigues | Report as abusive

If that papier-mâché figure had pertained to Mohammed, or to a Jew, this will be condemned by most of the prominent people in the world. We will see and hear protests in the streets, burning of effigies, and even destroying and burning some properties. But since said papier-mâché figure only pertained to the Vicar of Christ namely the Pope and a Bishop being portrayed as evil, we hear no uproar and condemnation. We don’t hear from prominent people in the world like the Chancellor of Germany of her being upset to think that the Pope is a German too! We don’t even hear from some Bishops in the Roman Curia rebuking the same which I suspect some of them are Freemasons. Anton is right, in this politically correct age we are called to show sensitivity and respect towards everyone, except of course Christians- especially the Catholic Church.

Posted by Daniel Rosaupan | Report as abusive

Bishop Williamson must be hitting a nerve to be so persecuted and reviled. When I think of this man, almost 70 years of age, being stripped of his position in Argentina and sold out by SSPX and the pope, I cannot understand. One expects the “media” to behave as a pack of jackals because they ARE a pack of jackals; they manufacture “furor”.

Posted by Grace | Report as abusive

Certainly,it looks like nobody who wrote in this blog except the Columnist have been in Dusseldorf or at least take the time to read about the city surroundings, the population, the people, the actual socio-economic, religion tendencies, the diferent kind of ethnicity mixed,coexistance, etc.before writing. Am I WRONG?
I do not have the lucky to know the city, hope some day … but at least try to search some about it, before opinion, but at least and not less,always we all never end to learn….to search first….

Also,I see that some confuse the use of a seudonimous with anonimous, I hope it is a confusion, if it is not, the columnist have all the right to encourage to show yourself when it is necessary.I find that we are all using our freedom to gave opinion, that is healthy, to communicate, encourage, but not to insult, if you go inside that terrain,…. well have to show your name, if you send words as stones and hide your hand you are using an anonimous way.

Just in case , the context where this blog starts was a carnival parade in Dusseldorf. A carnival express what is the sentiment of the community, the inner conflicts inside the population, but in a way that it is used as a social and individual release of your inner concerns. You can see in carnivals of other sides of the world the same pattern, in diferent ways as is the difference of cultures are. Carnival is a way to analize what is going one in each of those societies.

Each year the ways are the same the meanings espressed are different, usually the meanings are very actual with the times. Good and bad things.

I am sorry to read how easy you judge actual German people, this generation and future are still paying the bill from WWII, but they are in actual times trying, not to erase the past, but to emmerge and recover from that past. Germans are working hard to be integrated with all the world. In a positive attitude of equality. I think we all are not better and not less that them now.

About The Pope and the Devil…. seems to be a great issuue that concerns thos e society, so much enough to be expressed in a parade, these make reactions like this blog , and in the mainstreets people, that is the good thing of Freedom, but with utual rights and duties.
I hope Dusseldorf people be more release because were being able to express thsir concerns and tabues without being punished.

Posted by Maria | Report as abusive

I think people need to remember to take this in context with what Rose Monday is. Public figures have traditionally been a huge part of the carnival. Given the recent comments of Williamson, it should not be a surprise that he was brought up.

Here is a video I found that has some different perspectives on the Williamson story from various news sources.

http://www.newsy.com/videos/controversia l_bishop_returns_to_the_u_k/

Posted by EmbarkOn | Report as abusive