Jewish group urges pope to shut Holocaust denier Williamson out again
A Holocaust survivors group urged Pope Benedict on Saturday to ban an arch-traditionalist bishop from the Catholic Church because he hired a lawyer close to neo-Nazi groups to defend him in court in Germany. Bishop Richard Williamson, one of four rebel bishops re-admitted to the Church in January 2009, recently hired a far-right lawyer to conduct his appeal against a 12,000 euro fine imposed last year for denying the Holocaust.
His ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), which is now negotiating its return to the Church with Vatican officials, also threatened to expel Williamson from its ranks if he did not distance himself from the lawyer.
(Photo: Bishop Richard Williamson, February 28, 2007/Jens Falk)
Williamson’s re-admission to the Church only days after he denied the Holocaust on Swedish television sparked protests across Europe and created major problems for Pope Benedict, especially with Jewish groups outraged by the move.
In a book due out next week, Benedict says he would not have lifted the 22-year excommunication ban on Williamson if he had known of his far-right views. The pope said the Vatican’s poor communications in that row was a “total meltdown.”
“Holocaust survivors call on Pope Benedict to categorically assert moral authority and reinstate the excommunication of Bishop Williamson which was lifted last year,” Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said in a statement. “Williamson’s grotesque comments denigrating the tragedy of the Holocaust are now compounded by his engaging a notorious right-wing extremist as his lawyer.”
The SSPX issued a statement saying the society’s leader, Bishop Bernard Fellay “has expressly ordered Bishop Williamson to withdraw this decision (to hire the lawyer) and not let himself be used by political theses that have absolutely nothing to do with his tasks as a Catholic bishop in the service of the society.”