Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the head of the Roman Catholicism in 2005, the best-selling daily Bild caught the national mood with a frontpage headline crowing Wir sind Papst! (We're Pope!). Now, Germans are falling out of love with their pope for readmitting to the Church an excommunicated bishop who denies the Holocaust. For the vast majority of Germans, denying the Holocaust is beyond the pale. Shunning anyone who does deny the Holocaust is considered a civic virtue. So seeing the world's most prominent German rehabilitate a Holocaust denier is quite distressing for a upstanding, post-war German democrat. How could he do it? (Photo: Pope Benedict at the Vatican, 2 Feb 2009/Alessandro Bianchi)
The Vatican and Catholic bishops around the world have been defending the pope, saying the lifting of the excommunications for the controversial Bishop Richard Williamson and three other bishops was an internal Church issue unrelated to his political views. They say repeatedly that this is not a rehabilitation, but simply a readmission to allow discussions on rehabilitation to start. After botching the initial announcement, the Vatican has had a tough time trying to convince public opinion in other countries. In Germany, where many understandably think Holocaust deniers deserve no sympathy whatsoever, this task is proving to be doubly difficult.
From Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Foreign Minister to leading Catholic thinkers, Jewish groups and editorial writers in top-selling newspapers -- they're all criticising the pope's controversial decision to welcome Williamson back. Here is our news story from Berlin wrapping up the reaction. In Rome, another German, Cardinal Walter Kasper, bluntly told Vatican Radio: "There wasn't enough talking with each other in the Vatican and there are no longer checks to see where problems could arise." (Photo: Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Angela Merkel, 21 Oct 2008/Tobias Schwarz)
While Kasper takes a jab at Ratzinger now and then, it's rare to see such a wide variety of opinion lining up in Rome and in other countries against a pontiff. It is almost unthinkable that a head of government should break with protocol and openly criticise a pope. But when a German pope ignores one of the deepest German taboos, getting a reaction like this is -- as they say here in Germany -- "as certain as hearing 'Amen' in church."