Stanley's blog

The Pope is going again to Israel where he hopes to repair Catholic-Jewish relations which have soured over the Pope’s decision last month to lift the ex-communication of Bishop Williamson.

Pope Benedict XVI told American Jewish leaders today in relation to the Holocaust that “any denial or minimisation of this terrible crime [was] intolerable“, especially from a priest. “The hatred and contempt for men, women and children that was manifested in the Shoah [Holocaust] was a crime against humanity,” he said.

Bishop Williamson gave an interview to Swedish television in November, in which he disputed that six million Jews had died at the hands of the Nazis, and said that none had died in gas chambers. To make matters worse, the interview was given in Germany, where Holocaust denial is a crime.

The Pope previously said that he had not known about Bishop Williamson’s views – a damning criticism of his advisers. Several days after the furore broke out, the Vatican issued a lame statement demanding that Williamson “distance himself from his positions on the Shoah.” Even this the bishop has not done. Pope Benedict remained silent.

The desire to end a schism that began in 1988 when four ultraconservative bishops, including Bishop Williamson, all members of the traditionalist Society of St Pius X (SSPX), were ordained without Vatican permission, is understandable. The fact that the Pope feels unable to take stronger action against the bishop is disturbing, as it could mean that Williamson has serious support within the Church.

This comes at a time when ‘traditional’ European anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head, including the desecration and burning of synagogues.

Mario Kaiser, a German journalist, wrote in the International Herald Tribune:

“The pope is not an anti-Semite and has never condoned anti-Semitism. But he chooses to retreat at a time when he should lead, and that, to me, is not an option for a German pope in the face of anti-Semitism.”

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