Catholic bishops in the German-speaking countries have been especially outspoken in demanding the ultra-conservative Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), whose four excommunicated bishops were welcomed back into the Church on Saturday, must explicitly accept Second Vatican Council documents assuring respect for the Jews. The Vatican had been demanding full acceptance of Council documents for years, including in a compromise it offered last June but the SSPX rejected it. As far as is known, it was not part of the deal that has now led to the bans being lifted. The issue has hit the headlines because one of the four, British-born Bishop Richard Williamson, openly denied the Holocaust in an interview on Swedish television broadcast last week. (Photo: St. Peter’s Basilica, 5 Feb 2005/Tom Heneghan)
The German Bishops Conference noted the four bishops, whose dissent against Rome mostly concerned its rejection of the Council reforms including a modern liturgy and recognition for Judaism and other religions, must now discuss their future status in the Church with Vatican officials. “We have the clear expectation and make the urgent request that the four bishops and the Society announce unmistakably and credibly their loyalty to the Second Vatican Council and especially the declaration ‘ostra Aetate,’ said a statement by Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff, its main official for relations with Jews. Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, is the cornerstone of the post-Council opening to Jews, Muslims and other religions.
Munich’s Archbishop Reinhard Marx said Williamson’s comments were “unspeakable, unacceptable…” and added “Every denial of the Holocaust must be punished harshly.” In a statement, he noted the Vatican would now negotiate the conditions of the four bishops’ return into the Church. “There is no doubt that the decisions of the Second Vatican Council are binding for that.” (Photo: Archbishop Reinhard Marx, 3 Oct 2008/Michael Dalder)
The Swiss bishops apologised to the Jewish community there “for the irritations that have arisen in recent days.” In a statement entitled “Denying the Holocaust cannot be accepted,” bishops’ conference chairman Bishop Kurt Koch said the Swiss-based SSPX had long rejected the Council’s opening to other religions. “We Swiss bishops expect that in these discussions (with the Vatican) … these bishops say credibly that they accept the Second Vatican Council and especially the positive view of Judaism set out in Nostra Aetate.”
In Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn wrote a Holocaust Day letter to the city’s Grand Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg saying it was “shameful and frightening that there are still voices publicly denying the Shoah and question the right of the Jewish people to exist.”