Argentine seminary ousts Holocaust-denying bishop

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buenos aires, argentina  |  The traditionalist bishop whose reinstatement by the Vatican sparked outrage because of his denials of the Holocaust has been removed as the head of an Argentine seminary, his superiors said Feb. 9.

The ultraconservative Society of St. Pius X, which is trying to reconcile with the Vatican, announced it had dismissed British Bishop Richard Williamson as director of the La Reja seminary and distanced itself from his views.

The development came as a new report quoted Williamson as having declared in a 1989 speech that “Jews made up the Holocaust, Protestants get their orders from the devil and the Vatican has sold its soul to liberalism.”

Williamson’s views about the Holocaust created an uproar last month when Pope Benedict XVI lifted his excommunication and that of three other bishops consecrated by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

Lefebvre founded the Society of St. Pius X in 1969 in opposition to the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, particularly its outreach to Jews.

In an interview broadcast Jan. 21, Williamson told Swedish state TV that no Jews were gassed during the Holocaust and only 200,000 to 300,000 were killed, not 6 million.

 

An undated image taken from a video shows British-born Bishop Richard Williamson (center) conducting a Mass at an unknown location. photo/ap/courtesy svt

“The statements from Monsignor Williamson do not in any way reflect the position of our congregation,” the Rev. Christian Bouchacourt, South American superior for the Society of St. Pius X in Buenos Aires, said in a statement e-mailed to the Associated Press.

 

“A Catholic bishop cannot speak with ecclesiastical authority except on matters concerning faith and morality. Our brotherhood does not claim any authority over other questions.”

Williamson also questioned the Holocaust while serving as rector of the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, Minn., between 1988 and 2003, the Winona Daily News reported Feb. 8.

 “There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies,” Williamson said in the 1989 speech at Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes church in Sherbrooke, Quebec, according to the newspaper.

In the same speech, the paper said Williamson asserted that “the Jews created the Holocaust so we would prostrate ourselves on our knees before them and approve of their new State of Israel.”

The Daily News reported that the bishop also wrote letters in 2001 and 2002 blaming “Judeo-Masonry” for the two world wars and claiming that Jews were bent on world domination. It did not say to whom the letters were sent.

After the pope lifted Williamson’s excommunication, Israel’s chief rabbinate suspended a planned regular meeting in March to discuss Catholic and Jewish religious teachings.

But last week, the Vatican demanded Williamson recant before he can be admitted as a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church.

Rabbi David Rosen, a longtime participant in Vatican-Jewish dialogue, said Feb. 9 that thanks to the new Vatican demand, the meeting would probably take place at the end of March.

JTA reported that World Jewish Congress leaders who met with Vatican officials Feb. 9 expressed optimism that Jewish-Catholic relations would survive the controversy over the reinstatement of a Holocaust-denying bishop.

According to a WJC statement, its representatives “expressed optimism that the Williamson affair would soon be over and that it would not burden the Catholic-Jewish relationship in the longer term,” said Richard Prasquier, president of the French-Jewish umbrella organization CRIF. “Today, we strongly reaffirmed that the denial of the Shoah is not an opinion but a crime.”

Meanwhile, according to the statement, WJC President Ronald Lauder said he hoped that the controversy would not derail an expected papal visit to Israel in the spring. Such a trip, Lauder was quoted as saying, would “be an opportunity to reaffirm the Vatican’s commitment to dialogue with Jews.”

Reuters also reported that a delegation of the Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations was scheduled to meet with the pope Feb. 12.

A prominent Argentine rabbi, Daniel Goldman, on Feb. 9 welcomed Williamson’s dismissal from the seminary near Buenos Aires, saying the bishop’s statements “demonstrate that there are still people in the world today who are instilled with Nazism,” according to the Jewish News Agency in Buenos Aires.

“We have to continue working for education and justice to ensure that these forces do not triumph.”

The German weekly Der Spiegel reported Feb. 7 that Williamson did not plan to immediately comply with the Vatican’s demand that he recant and that he had rejected a suggestion he might visit the former Auschwitz death camp.

Williamson said he would correct himself if he was satisfied by the evidence, but insisted that examining it would take time, Der Spiegel said.

Several efforts by AP to reach Williamson at his home in Argentina have been unsuccessful.